Spotted Lanternflies make invasive appearance across campus

While people were worrying about “murder” hornets last year, another invasive species was also making its home in the United States: the Spotted Lanternfly. The Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive insect that has made its way across the ocean from China and was first reported in Pennsylvania in September 2014. Spotted Lanternflies feast on the sap of various plants and trees, especially farm crops like grapes, hops, and fruit trees. Additionally, the maple syrup and Christmas tree industries have felt the effects of the Spotted Lanternfly.

In 2019, an economic impact study estimated that if the Spotted Lanternfly population continued to grow uncontrolled, this insect alone would cause more than $324 million annually, along with costing more than 2,800 jobs.

Spotted Lanternflies are also known to excrete a sugary waste called honeydew. Honeydew attracts bees, wasps, and other insects and builds up on any surface that Spotted Lanternflies rest on. The build-up of honeydew has also been linked to the growth of sooty mold and black-colored fungi, both of which could decrease the quality of life of residents in impacted areas.

Any effort to stop the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly is helpful; this includes killing them on sight and destroying their egg masses. Mature Spotted Lanternflies are a beige color with black spots on the wings. Their hindwings (which aren’t normally visible) are a bright red color. Spotted Lanternfly egg masses typically look like dried mud spots.
Sightings of Spotted Lanternflies are supposed to be reported through an online portal or to 1-888-4BAD-FLY (1-888-422-3359). While no action will directly be taken from the report, it will help government organizations keep track of which areas are being affected by Spotted Lanternflies, especially if they are outside the current quarantine zone.

In Pennsylvania alone, 34 counties — including Allegheny County — have been placed under a state-imposed quarantine for Spotted Lanternflies. They can also be found in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia. Residents moving in and out of quarantine zones are highly encouraged to check their belongings for Spotted Lanternflies and their eggs.

Though not common in an urban setting like Pittsburgh, Tree-of-Heavens serve as one of the main hosts of this pest. Removal of these trees help contribute to controlling their population. Some pesticides have also been known to help kill off Spotted Lanternflies, but all residents of affected areas are highly encouraged to kill them on sight.