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What Do You Do If You See a Spotted Lanternfly?

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If you've been spending more time outdoors this year, you may have noticed a large fly with black-spotted, gray wings. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this insect is not native to America. Originally from Vietnam, China, and India, the spotted lanternfly first appeared in Pennsylvania in 2014 before spreading to the nearby Mid-Atlantic states.

"The biggest threat these pests pose is to the agricultural industry where they have been shown to cause extensive problems to grape growers," says Benjamin Hottel, Ph.D., technical services manager for Orkin Pest Control.

But do homeowners need to be concerned over the spotted lanternfly (other than their loss of grapes)? Benjamin tells us why you should evict these invasive insects from your property and how to prevent them from taking over your yard.

Why are spotted lanternflies bad? 

Spotted lanternflies can swarm your property.

Spotted lanternflies feed on the sap of trees and a handful of other plants. During the feeding process, they can excrete a substance called honeydew. Their honeydew attracts bees, wasps, and other insects, and leaves a homeowner in a sticky situation.

"If these insects are feeding above a porch, car or driveway, honeydew can start to cover these surfaces which may become unsightly if it starts to grow black, sooty mold," says Benjamin.

Spotted lanternflies can also become a nuisance to homeowners because of the sheer number that can appear and infest a property, decreasing a homeowner's quality of life. Their feeding can also lead to the death of infested trees and plants. 

How can we stop the spotted lanternfly from spreading further?

If you're in an area with the spotted lanternfly, check under your car before leaving.

"If you are living in a county under quarantine due to agriculture and pest concerns, you should follow the quarantine instructions available by your state's Department of Agriculture," says Benjamin. "These instructions usually tell you to inspect plants and wood for spotted lanternflies when transporting these items out of the quarantined area."

Cars and vehicles leaving quarantined counties should also be inspected. Travelers should pay particular attention to the wheel wells and underside of cars where egg masses can be laid hidden from view. The masses need to be removed before a car can enter an unquarantined area. 

Report sightings at all life stages of the spotted lanternfly.

You should also know the protocol for spotted lanternflies sightings in your area. According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, only sightings in unquarantined counties need to be reported, which can be done via email or phone.

In Pennsylvania, the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State has set up a Penn State Extension website to help report sightings at all life stages of the spotted lanternfly, from egg mass to nymph to adult. 

How to get rid of the spotted lanternfly

Spotted lanternflies lay egg masses on the side of trees.

"The egg masses present on bark from September to May," says Benjamin. "If you find any, these should be removed."

The spotted lanternfly's egg masses usually appear about 10 feet from the ground and look like dried mud upon a tree. Each mass can have up to 50 eggs, and they can be scraped off with a hard tool, such as a ruler, knife, or even a credit card. Then homeowners should place the egg masses in a container or plastic bag with rubbing alcohol to destroy them or simply smash them with their foot.

One way to get rid of lanternflies is to stomp their egg masses.

Depending upon your state's laws, the egg masses can be burned, so make sure to check before deciding on a course of action.

Rather than reacting to spotted lanternfly sightings, homeowners should look to prevent attracting them to the property.

"You can also take preventive actions by removing any tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) growing in your yard," says Benjamin. "The tree of heaven is not native to the United States and is the preferred plant to feed on by the spotted lanternfly."

Lanternflies prefer the tree of heaven, but they like maple, too.

Other favorite hosts of the spotted lanternfly include grapevines, fruit trees, black walnut, birch, maples and willow trees. Homeowners should also clear their property of outdoor items that attract the fly, including logs, stumps, or any tree parts; grapevines for decorative purposes; and packing materials. Find a complete list on your state's Department of Agriculture's website.

Of course, spotted lanternflies aren't the only pest that can invade your home. We recently welcomed Glen Ramsey, Senior Technical Services Manager and board-certified entomologist for Orkin Pest Control, to the vipHome Podcast for home pest control tips. Watch now! 

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