This invasive species has taken over 34 counties in Pennsylvania alone. The Spotted lanternfly (SLF) threatens agriculture across the state from orchards and vineyards to hardwoods and nurseries. The insect feeds on sap in tree trunks, branches, twigs, leaving a greyish/black oozing trail along the bark of the plant. The substance it excretes while feeding is called “honeydew,” which also attracts bees and encourages fungal growth at the base of host trees, stunting its growth.
Native to China, the SLF is suspected of hitching a ride on a cargo shipment into a Philadelphia port where it started reproducing. Since its initial arrival, the insect has broken out of Pennsylvania into Virginia, New Jersey and New York.
photo credit: "20180829-APHIS-LSC-1176" by USDAgov is marked with CC PDM 1.0
To slow the spread, restricted movement of the following products in and out of quarantine counties has been put in place:
As of May 1, 2019, businesses sending vehicles or products in or out of quarantine zones are required to obtain a permit and special training to identify and locate SLF or egg masses on their vehicles. For more information about SLF permits, visit Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
The SLF is particularly attracted to its host tree, the Tree of Heaven or Ailanthus Altissima. The tree is known for its rapid growth and is also invasive. It can grow up to 100 feet tall and 6 feet wide. The bark is smooth and green during its infancy but becomes light brown/grey into adulthood. Many have described the bark as “cantaloupe skin." The leaves of the Tree of Heaven are centrally stemmed with 10 to 40 lance-shaped leaflets on either side.
At the base of the stem, the leaflet has 1 to 2 protruding bumps or glandular teeth and emits a strong odor when the leaf is crushed. The seeds of the female trees are clustered, 1 to 2 inches long, and hang on the tree throughout the winter. The Tree of Heaven produces a very high pollen count and can also cause irritation or dermatitis when in contact with bare skin. Wear gloves and other protective skin covering when interacting with the Tree of Heaven.
photo credit: "Tree-of-heaven" by NatureServe is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The SLF exist in seven life stages before natural death.
photo credit: Penn State Extension
The Spotted Lanternfly poses a major threat to Pennsylvania’s economy, at least $324 million annually, according to Penn State Extension. It also threatens the health of trees and the outdoor recreation industry. More than 34 counties have been added to the list of quarantine zones across PA. It is crucial to stop the spread of Spotted Lanternflies now before they begin laying their eggs each winter.