The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a planthopper that is indigenous to parts of China, India, Vietnam, and eastern Asia. Although it has two pairs of wings, it jumps more than it flies. Its host plants include grapes, stone fruits, and Malus species, though its preferred host is Ailanthus altissima (Chinese sumac or tree of heaven). In its native habitat it is kept in check by natural predators or pathogens. It was accidentally introduced in Korea in 2006 and has since been considered a pest. In September 2014, it was first recorded in the United States, and as of 2018 it is an invasive species in eastern Pennsylvania, southwestern New Jersey, northern Delaware, northern Virginia, and eastern Maryland.
The spotted lanternfly is originally native to parts of China, India, Vietnam, and eastern Asia. It is a one-inch-long and half-inch-wide planthopper belonging to the family Fulgoridae. It was first described by Adam White in 1845 as Aphaena delicatula with habitat outside of Nankin, China. Adult lanternflies have a black head and gray-brown forewings adorned with the eponymous black spots. When resting, the crimson hindwings are partially visible through the semi-translucent forewings, giving the lanternfly a red cast. Neatly spaced black rectangular markings color the tips of the forewings in a pattern sometimes likened to brick and mortar. In flight, the spotted lanternfly displays red hind wings with black spots on the proximal third, a white wedge in the middle of the wing, and a solid black wing tip. The abdomen is yellowish with black and white bands on the top and bottom. The lanternfly is a strong jumper and uses its wings to assist these jumps rather than making sustained flights. In traditional Chinese medicine, the spotted lanternfly is believed to be poisonous, and is used topically for relief from swelling. It feeds on woody plants and non-woody plants, piercing the phloem tissue of foliage and young stems with its specialized mouthparts, and sucking the sap. The sugary fluid leaks and coats leaves and stems, and this can encourage mold growth. It does not eat the fruit or the leaves per se. The lanternfly has a wide host range of over 70 plant species, including grape vines, fruit trees, ornamental trees, and woody trees, including apples and several Rosaceae with stone fruits.
Beginning in late April to early May, nymphs hatch from their egg cases. A nymph passes through several immature stages. In the first stage it is wingless and looks black with white spots. It then grows red patches in addition to the white spots. Next, it has red wing pads and a red upper body, before assuming the adult look of black head and grayish wings with black spots. Nymphs cannot fly, so they hop or crawl to search for plants to feed on. Young nymphs appear to have a wider host range early on, which narrows as they grow older. As early as July, adults can be seen. In the fall, adults mate and lay eggs from late September through the onset of winter. In their native Indomalayan habitat they will lay their eggs preferably on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which has toxic metabolites, and is an introduced invasive tree in North America. This host choice is thought to have evolved as mechanism of protection from natural enemies. The lanternfly will lay eggs upon any smooth trunked tree, stone or vertical smooth surface, including man made items like vehicles, campers, yard furniture, farm equipment or other items stored outside. The egg masses contain 30–50 eggs, covered in a yellowish brown waxy deposit, often referred to as an egg case. The lanternfly's life expectancy is one year.
The minimum temperature that will kill eggs was estimated by South Korean researchers to be between −12.7 and −3.4 °C (9.1 and 25.9 °F) on the basis of mean daily temperatures during their winter of 2009/2010. This estimate contrasts with eggs having survived the much colder winter 2013/14 temperatures in Pennsylvania, United States.
Host plant signs of infestation
Trees can develop weeping wounds of sap on their trunks. Heavy infestations can cause honeydew secretions to build up at the base of the tree, blackening the soil with fungal mats around the base of the tree. The sap may attract ants, bees, hornets, and wasps to feed on it. The plant may be stunted or even die.
In South Korea
In 2006, the spotted lanternfly was accidentally introduced in Korea, and has been considered a pest since about 2007, as it expanded its host range, attacking at least 65 plant species, uninhibited by a natural enemy.
In the United States
The spotted lanternfly was first detected in the United States in Berks County, northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On September 22, 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Game Commission confirmed its presence. Based on its host affinities, it presented a threat to the state's grape, fruit tree, and logging industries. The greatest risk of spread was seen in people transporting materials containing egg masses laid on smooth bark, stone, and other vertical surfaces, so the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture banned transport of items that could harbor the hopper, including firewood, lawn mowers, outdoor chairs, trucks, and RVs, from seven municipalities on November 1, 2014. Given the presence of old egg masses, the insect was estimated to have been in the area since at least 2012, having survived the 2013/14 winter's unusual cold. A national working group led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consisting of university and USDA scientists, was organized "to determine what is known about the lanternfly and what research is needed, including DNA analysis to pinpoint where the infestation originated."
In July 2018, spotted lanternfly was confirmed in three New Jersey counties. In September 2018 it was found in two New York locations, as well as in Virginia. On February 28, 2019, the Delaware Department of Agriculture signed Emergency Regulations for spotted lanternfly enacting a quarantine for this pest.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has been recommending based on information from PennState Extension:
- Kill eggs October through May by scraping them off of surfaces, "double bag them and throw them in the garbage," or scrape the eggs directly into a Ziploc bag of alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them.
- Remove spotted lanternfly hosts, the tree Ailanthus altissima (Chinese sumac or tree of heaven), saving only male trees to use as "trap" trees, since the spotted lanternfly requires a meal from this tree before laying eggs. Remaining male "trap" trees should be wrapped with sticky bands starting in early spring to catch any nymphs.
- Trees can be treated with systemic pesticides June–August. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recommends tree injection and bark sprays, applied by professional applicators, and soil drench and foliar sprays, which can be applied by homeowners.
As of 2020 the PDA recommended different pesticides include insecticidal soaps, neem oil, pyrethrins and Essential oils as well as bifenthrin, carbaryl, dinotefuran as bark sprays, imidacloride,spinosad, tebuconazole and zeta-cypermethrin.
Adults and second-to-fourth-instar nymphs appear to be attracted to spearmint oil, which could be used in their control. Sticky traps at the base of tree trunks have also been used. A parasitic wasp, Anastatus orientalis, was found to parasitize up to 69% of spotted lanternfly eggs in China and is a candidate biological pest control agent. In 2019, researchers from the Hajek Lab at Cornell University have found that two native fungi, Beauveria bassiana and Batkoa major, kill spotted lanternflies, and Beauveria bassiana has also shown an ability to kill spotted lanternflies in biopesticide trials.
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