Don’t Fall for the Spotted Lanternfly

The Philadelphia region escaped with fewer spotted lanternflies this summer, but experts warn now is not the time to get complacent.

“Fall and winter are the most opportune time to combat them!” advises the Academy’s Karen Verderame. “Looking for egg masses and destroying them will keep them from traveling to unaffected areas.”

Spotted lanternflies are an invasive species that fanatically feeds on more than 70 plant species, leaving them susceptible to disease and dying. Beautiful to behold with elegantly patterened grey, red and black spotted wings, they are native to China, Vietnam and Bangladesh and were first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 in Berks County.

Since then, the species has spread to 34 Pennsylvania counties and this summer rampaged through through New Jersey on their way to New York. The insects were first documented in the Garden State two years ago and in N.Y. (Staten Island) last year. They have destroyed acres of vineyards, slimed the bottoms of pedestrian’s shoes, and kept building and street maintenance workers busy sweeping up their carcasses.

They may be beautiful but their deadly to dozens of species of trees and crops.

We asked Animal Programs Developer Verderame to characterize this year’s spotted lanternfly scene and what happens next.

There seems to be fewer spotted lanternflies menacing the Philadelphia area this year. True?

There does seem to be less in numbers of the spotted lanternflies in the area. As an invasive species become more established, it is common to see a drop in numbers. There has not been an official survey of numbers done to see what the population’s numbers are.

Why is that?

There can be a variety of reasons for a drop in the numbers. Again this can be expected as there is typically a boom in population when an invasive species is first introduced. Trends of drops in numbers could be seen in areas that were first infested with the spotted lanternfly. Part of this is because they are widening their range. They are not in isolated pockets.

What is the situation in other Pennsylvania and South Jersey counties?

Spotted lanternflies still continue to be of concern in these two states. It is important to still be vigilant in transporting them. Check cars for stowaways, scrape egg masses and stomp. Though it may seem like they are dwindling, they are in fact still causing harm to native trees and crops, and they are spreading.

Are they moving to other states beyond PA-NJ?

Spotted lanternflies are now found in at least 11 states including Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Virginia, West Virginia and Indiana. Unfortunately, they are continuing to spread with more states reporting sightings.

Did our smash-em efforts last year and so far this year make any difference in the population?

Smash-em efforts are sure to help in some capacity. It is important to continue combating their numbers to help reduce their spread. Inspecting various modes of transportation, firewood and other goods for adult stowaways or egg masses can help reduce spread.

Spotted lanternfly egg masses should be scraped off and dropped in a container with alcohol to halt the spread of the insects.

What’s your advice for this fall?

In the fall many people forget about spotted lanternflies since they do not see the adults flying around. However, the fall and winter is the most opportune time to combat them! Checking trees, fence posts, patio furniture, sheds, grill covers and more for egg masses and scrapping them into a bag of alcohol is a great way to control their spread. Looking for egg masses and destroying them will keep them from traveling to unaffected areas. Additionally, measures are being taken by the Department of Agriculture in various states to also inspect trailers on trucks and trains  for egg masses to help prevent their spread.

By Carolyn Belardo, with Karen Verderame

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