In the middle of August, two district staff members went searching for the Spotted Lanternfly throughout Monroe County and what they found is troubling, to say the least. Conservation district staff have been reporting sightings and visiting those sites to confirm the presence of the Spotted Lanternfly. A few of these areas proved to be teeming with adult Lanternflies as well as the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima).
The Spotted Lanternfly came to Pennsylvania, specifically Berks County, in 2014. Since then, the Lanternfly has spread to 14 counties in PA spanning from Lancaster to Monroe. These counties are in a “Quarantine Zone” requiring businesses to monitor anything being exported from or within these counties. These insects do not present any issue to humans, as the don’t bite or sting, but they can be very damaging to the agriculture industry. Spotted Lanternflies are part of a group of insects known as the “piercing-sucking insects” and this means they feed by inserting their mouthpart into the plants, and like a straw, they suck out sap. They excrete a honeydew (sugary water) which attracts wasps and also encourages Black Sooty Mold to grow in those areas coated with honeydew.
This new insect is considered an invasive species, meaning it has caused a negative impact on the ecosystem. The Spotted Lanternfly originally comes from the Asian countries of China, India, and Vietnam but the United States isn’t the Lanternfly’s first foray into becoming an invasive. South Korea was first infested in 2004, and by 2005 it officially became labeled as a pest. The Tree of Heaven, another invasive species, also originates from Asia and is the native habitat of the Spotted Lanternfly. If the Lanternfly would only pick this species of plant to infest we might not be so worried, but these invasive insects also like to feed on the following crops: grapes, apples, hops, walnuts, and other hardwoods.
The Lanternfly has only one life cycle per year, so they hatch from eggs starting in April and continue to grow until they have reached adulthood sometime around August. These new adults lay their eggs starting in September and continue laying until they die in December. Each female can lay 30-50 eggs per egg mass, which she covers with a putty-like material. The Lanternflies are not selective when choosing a spot to lay their eggs…they’ll pick trees, grape vines, deck steps, house siding, or even your car! This can make it tricky to find the egg masses. So, what are we doing and what can you do to help?
Currently, district staff has been working with the USDA to monitor areas of Lanternfly sightings as well as identify potential areas of interest. Monroe County Conservation District has also been participating in larger Spotted Lanternfly meetings, which include all affected counties, to stay aware of new problems as well as learn techniques for managing this invasive pest. However, we can’t do it alone! We need the community’s help in identifying new locations, and spreading the word about this invasive bug. If you see an adult or eggs, please call the Monroe County Conservation District to report a sighting! Remember to take a picture and then please; SQUASH, STAMP, or SCRAPE the insect/eggs away! If you are traveling anywhere outside of the county or within the quarantine zone remember to check your vehicle and always Look Before You Leave. As a business owner you can get a Toolkit or Lanternfly training from Penn State Extension depending on your needs (see link below).