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The Invasive Spotted Lanternfly Is Back—Here’s What You Can Do to Help

The spotted lanternfly is back and is predicted to cause billions of dollars in damage. Here's what you need to know about the invasive species, including how to help get rid of it.

Written by
Jenna Mignano
Published
August 9, 2022

The spotted lanternfly, also known as Lycorma delicatula, is making itself at home in the United States. Unfortunately, the invasive species and its ever-increasing presence is causing concern for residents in a host of states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Most recently, the insects have decided that they are full-on New Yorkers, or at least troublesome tourists, taking over the streets of Manhattan with little regard for those trying to enjoy their summer in peace. But what is a spotted lanternfly, exactly—and how does the beautiful bug negatively impact the planet?

What Is a Spotted Lanternfly?

The spotted lanternfly is native to China. These bugs are a more recent addition to North America's tally of invasive species: The first spotted lanternfly in the United States was recorded in 2014 in Pennsylvania.

The insect has three main stages of life—seven in total, when accounting for all of the substages—that occur over the course of a year. In its late nymph stage, the insect is small and vibrantly red with white and black spots; as it matures, wings protrude and the colors shift to browns, blacks, yellows, and muted reds. (Its full range of colors are more visible when the bug is in flight.)

In its final form, the lanternfly measures approximately one inch long. But for being so small, it does a lot of damage to the environment.

How Does the Spotted Lanternfly Harm the Environment?

In terms of agriculture, these little bugs are serious pests. The spotted lanternfly is known to swarm and is a prolific procreator.

The spotted lanternfly damages plants, crops, and trees—including peaches, grapes, walnuts, cherries, and almonds—by directly feeding on them. It also secretes a substance called "honeydew" that causes mold to grow, leading to further damage.

Additionally, the insect lays its egg masses on any number of outdoor surfaces, which is likely how it gets around: Rather than flying long distances, the lanternfly's eggs can hitchhike from place to place via vehicles, clothes, equipment, or tools.

If the spotted lanternfly continues to spread and kill crops, researchers say it could cause billions of dollars of losses. One Penn State economist predicted the insect could drain Pennsylvania's economy of $324 million alone. In addition, a study published in Communications Biology found it could reach the California wine region by 2027, which could lead to billions in damages.

What to Do If You See a Spotted Lanternfly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D3rYXpNNbI

The spotted lanternfly often makes its home atop a tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which is also invasive to the United States. If there are lanternfly sightings in your area, removing these trees from your property to stop the cycle may be a wise move.

Should you spot a spotted lanternfly, experts advise that you snap a photo for proof, record the location, and then kill the insect and any of its accomplices. (Lanternflies do not sting or bite; simply squash them.) Report your lanternfly sighting to your state's specific number or email for invasive species sightings—they may even have a specific line dedicated to lanternflies. If you find spotted lanternfly eggs on a tree, follow the same steps.