Since it was first spotted in 2014 in Berks County, residents, organizations and government institutions across the state of Pennsylvania have worked to combat the invasive Spotted Lantern Fly.
The Lanternfly is an invasive species from China that has affected thousands of acres of forest across the eastern seaboard of the United States. The insect, which resembles a mottled gray and red butterfly, feeds on hardwoods and fruit trees and can seriously damage the plans it feeds on. The lantern fly feeds on a tree, then secretes a sap-like ooze onto the bark that can cause harmful molds that can sicken and kill plants. The spotted lanternfly is particularly attracted to fruit trees and vines, as well as invasive “Tree of Heaven” species.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the spotted lanternfly can have a significant negative impact on agribusinesses that rely on trees, including Christmas tree farms, orchards, and even vineyards. A 2019 estimate from the Department of Agriculture estimated that, left unchecked, the pest could cost the state $324 million each year and could cost thousands of Pennsylvanians their jobs.
The state of Pennsylvania currently has a quarantine prohibiting anyone in the state from moving the creature to new habitats and encouraging residents to destroy the creature on sight. The Spotted Lantern Fly has been confirmed in 34 counties in Pennsylvania, stretching southeast to Lycoming County.
Residents are encouraged to keep an eye out for the spotted lanternfly and signs of its presence and report it to the state. The insect begins its life cycle as a grayish egg mass on tree bark before hatching into small black nymphs that look like very large ticks with white spots. This is where the Lantern Fly is likely to appear at press time. It eventually matures into a gray butterfly-like adult with black spots about 1 inch long before laying eggs and starting the cycle again.
Steps to control the invading insect include destroying egg clutches, catching the insects, and careful use of pesticides.
The guide to dealing with spotted lantern flies can be found at https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-management-guide.
Fly traps have been developed and are commercially available or can be made with household materials. A guide for this exists on the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/how-to-build-a-new-style-spotted-lanternfly-circle-trap.