A new and potentially damaging invasive insect has been confirmed in Pennsylvania. The spotted lanternfly, a species of plant hopper (Lycorma delicatula), is native to parts of Asia including China, India, Vietnam and other parts of eastern Asia. It is an invasive pest in Korea where it was introduced in 2006 and causes damage to many plants that also occur in the northeastern United States. Hosts include grape, fruit trees, pines and hardwood trees. The initial identification of the insect occurred on September 22, 2014 by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Currently, there is a quarantine regulating movement of materials that could harbor the insect out of the local area where it was found and survey work is being done to determine the extent of the infestation.
In spite of its potential to be a problem this insect is quite striking and beautiful. The adult at rest holds its wings in a somewhat vertical position. The head is black and the outer wings are grayish with black spots near the body and the outer portion has a pattern of black rectangular blocks with gray outlines (see photo). The hind wings are red with black spots near the body and black and white as shown. The overwintering stage is the egg. Eggs are laid on smooth-barked trees or smooth vertical surfaces. The invasive tree Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) is favored for fall feeding and egg-laying. Egg masses contain 30-50 eggs and are laid in masses from late September until winter weather begins. Egg masses have a gray waxy coating over them (photo).
Nymphs hatch beginning in late April and initially feed on small woody and non-woody plants and vines. Hatchlings are initially black with white spots. As they mature, red patches develop. Nymphs move to various tree hosts as the season progresses by crawling and movement of infested plant material or debris. Adults disperse some by flying and they are strong jumpers. In the fall, they move primarily to the preferred host, tree-of-heaven for feeding and egg-laying.
Nymph and adult feeding on trees can be susceptible to significant damage and even death when attacked by a large population of this pest. Weeping wounds may appear on the trunk. A large population can produce accumulations of honeydew at the base of infested trees and fungi may grow on this and produce large fungal mats. Wasps, bees, hornets and ants may be attracted to the sweet honeydew.
Because of the proximity of Connecticut to Pennsylvania, it’s important for state residents to be aware of this pest and have it identified if found. Here’s what to do if you think you’ve found eggs, numphs or adults (from the PA fact sheet):
Eggs: Scrape them off the tree or surface into alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them. Place in a sealed plastic bag or container.
Nymphs or adults: preserve in alcohol or hand sanitizer in a crush proof container such as a vial.
Contact the UConn Home & Garden Education Center at 877-486-6271 or firstname.lastname@example.org or the UConn Plant Diagnostic Laboratory at 860-486-6740 or email@example.com or the entomology department at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station about sending in a sample. You may also submit digital photos to the email addresses above to see if it’s a suspect that should be identified.