An invasive plant-hopping pest has been found in several Eastern states and has the potential to spread. It’s called the spotted lanternfly and got here from Asia in 2014. It’s a threat to hardwoods and timber, grapes, peaches, and more.
Emelie Swackhamer is a horticulture Extension educator at Penn State University. She says it has piercing, sucking mouthparts that extract sap from trees, and feeds on tender shoots, branches and trunks of various plants. Another hazard of this pest is that it excretes partially digested sap in the form of a substance called honeydew.
"The honeydew has a lot of sugar content left in it, and then the honeydew will coat anything that’s underneath groups of these insects. Fungi will grow on that honeydew, and we call that sooty mold," says Swackhamer. "An objectionable smell develops, and it can coat the foliage of plants underneath it and reduce their photosynthetic ability and affect their health."
The young nymph is black with white spots. Older nymphs are black and red with white spots. The adults look like moths but have bright red under wings.
They will lay their eggs on just about anything, which means they can be unknowingly transported anywhere. Swackhamer says a few natural predators and some pesticides can help, but if you see the nymphs, the adults, or the egg masses, destroy them.
"The egg masses look almost like a splooch of mud on a tree," she says. "So, the female lays her eggs and then she covers them with a secretion from her body to protect them. When that dries down, it really looks a lot like a bit of mud."
Learn more about spotted lanternfly identification and its life cycle
Click here for information on how to avoid spreading the spotted lanternfly
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