Spotted Lanternfly Management Recommendations & Messaging

November 1, 2023

Spotted Lanternfly Management Recommendations & Messaging

Thank you for reaching out and for your commitment to slowing the spread of Spotted Lanternfly (SLF). Below are recommendations for management of infestations, as well as how to prevent the spread beyond Allegheny County as agreed upon by local organizations in the Western PA SLF Roundtable. A comprehensive SLF Management Guide from Penn State Extension can be found here.

Spotted Lanternfly Impact:
  • The most important thing to note is that, while SLF are annoying and have the potential to stress certain tree species in our region, they are NOT harmful to human health. SLF do NOT sting or bite.
  • Before taking action, assess the risk that SLF possess to your landscape or agricultural operation. When weighing the need to interfere, keep in mind that the ultimate should be to support the health of the entire ecosystem and minimize harm to other flora and fauna. Will your management intervention negatively impact other living things?
  • SLF do produce a sweet secretion called honeydew as they feed on trees, which may attract other insect species such as bees or wasps. Honeydew may also lead to the growth of sooty mold, a fungal disease that may further stress the tree species that SLF feed on by slowing photosynthesis. Sooty mold can stain non-plant material such as sidewalks, furniture, and more.
  • The economic impact of SLF is limited primarily to grape vineyards, and possibly fruit orchards. Agricultural industry professionals are working with technical assistance providers to manage their land responsibly using integrated pest management strategies as they would for any other crop pest.
Habitat and Feeding Habits:
  • SLF feed using their proboscis, a straw-like mouth part that pierces plant leaves and stems to suck out the sap. SLF do NOT munch or eat leaves. If you notice bites taken out of plant parts, SLF is most likely not the culprit!
  • Tree of Heaven: SLF prefer this as their feeding and egg laying habitat. Tree of Heaven (TOH) is an introduced weed that spreads quickly and can outcompete native tree species. However, TOH has become a significant portion of Allegheny County’s tree canopy, providing the same benefits that other trees provide including erosion control, wildlife habitat, pollution filtering, stormwater control, and more. If land stewards choose to remove this habitat tree after weighing the benefits above, efforts should be focused on female trees that produce many seeds, and should be replaced with a native tree species.
  • Other plant species that are often targeted by SLF include rose, grapes, black walnut trees, river birch trees, willow trees, sumac, red and silver maple, and fruit trees.
Recommended Management Practices:
  • SQUISH: While this may feel futile, each individual SLF that is killed can prevent up to 100 offspring from hatching in the following lifecycle. Approaching from head on makes stomping more successful as SLF take off and fly in a forward direction. If approaching from behind, SLF can more easily escape your foot or fly swatter.
  • VACUUM: You can utilize a handheld vacuum or shopvac to suck up SLF in nymph or adult stage. Empty vacuum into an alcohol solution to kill after sucking up. This management strategy is immediate and effective!
  • CIRCLE TRAP: Circle traps around infested trees can effectively capture SLF. You can make your own circle traps using household items using these directions, or purchase from a pest management supplier. Do NOT use sticky bands! These traps are more likely to attract and kill beneficial insects such as butterflies and other pollinators, as well as song birds, bats, birds of prey and more.
  • INSPECT: SLF travel primarily as a result of human activity. They hitch rides on cars, bikes, trains, trucks, and more. Inspect your vehicle for nymphs, adults, and egg masses before traveling, especially if you have spent time in an infested area. Allegheny County has been designated as a quarantine zone for SLF, meaning that any businesses that travel or transport goods within or across boundaries of the county must obtain an SLF permit to reduce spread by human activity. Learn if your place of business should get a permit here!
  • SQUISH EGG MASS: Egg masses can contain up to 50 SLF eggs. Adult SLF lay egg masses on many different surfaces. Identifying and squishing/ popping egg masses between September and June will prevent population increases on your property. You can also scrape egg masses into alcohol solution. Please note that the eggs from native mantis species, a beneficial insect, look similar. Be sure to properly identify before destroying egg masses!
  • REPORT: PA Dept of Ag is tracking the movement of SLF across the state. If you observe SLF in a new location or notice changes in population numbers, please report your sighting by calling 1-888-4BAD-FLY (1-888-422-3359) or online.
  • TREE CARE: While SLF can stress tree species, there are very few instances of SLF being solely responsible for tree death. Instead of spending resources on SLF extermination, it is encouraged that community members should instead spend time and resources on tree care, such as watering, mulching, pruning, etc., to increase tree resiliency in the face of stressors such as SLF. If your tree is healthy and strong, it will withstand pressure from SLF.
  • PERMIT: PDA requires businesses that regularly move items within quarantine zones or across the boundaries of quarantine zones to obtain a permit. This permit indicates that a trained employee has inspected the vehicle and its contents for the presence of SLF. Use this graphic to determine if your business needs to obtain a permit!
  • EDUCATE: Many environmental organizations provide workshops, speaker series, workdays, resources, and more focused on responsible SLF management. Consider attending a local event to learn and practice management techniques before implementing them at home! Reach out to any of the organizations listed below to learn about upcoming events and opportunities.
  • REMOVE HABITAT: If you remove SLF preferred food and egg laying habitat, the population in the immediate area will decline. Identifying and removing tree of heaven plants from your property and surrounding areas is an extremely effective way of reducing SLF numbers. However, while Tree of Heaven (TOH) is also considered an “invasive species,” it does contribute to our urban canopy and may provide the same benefits that all trees do including but not limited to filtering pollution from air, storm water capture, reducing urban island heat effect, and more. If you remove TOH from your property, we recommend replacing with a native tree or shrub species. You can also reach out to a landscape or tree care professional to remove TOH from your landscape.
Management Strategies to Avoid:
  • STICKY BANDS: Sticky bands, often placed around tree trunks, are more likely to attract and kill beneficial insects such as butterflies and other pollinators, as well as song birds, bats, birds of prey and more. If they must be used, sticky traps should only be used in combination with a mesh covering to prevent bycatch and must be checked daily to ensure other species are not being captured.
  • CHEMICAL INSECTICIDES: Chemical controls should be used as a last resort. If an infestation is determined to need chemical control, a broad spectrum contact pesticide may be used to kill SLF. A contact insecticide must be sprayed directly onto the insect. Natural insecticides that are less toxic such as insecticidal soaps or neem oil may be effective. However, please note that any broad spectrum insecticide will kill any and all insects it comes into contact with, including our beneficial insects and essential pollinators. Use these products as a last resort and be aware that NO insecticide product is specific to SLF; any application of an insecticide has the potential to kill non-target insects. As a last resort, a systemic insecticide can be applied to habitat trees. Because SLF feed on the vascular tissue of plants using their straw-like mouth, systemic insecticides are effective in killing SLF. Please note, systemic insecticides should only be applied when a tree is NOT flowering to avoid killing essential pollinators and beneficial insects. Please note, foliar spray insecticides will NOT be effective to kill SLF as these insects do not feed on plant leaves. Chemical controls can have an impact of water quality, so please consider proximity to water sources when weighing the decision to use this management strategy. Pesticides should only be applied by trained professionals, and should be applied according to label instructions.
  • HOME REMEDIES: Avoid home remedies such as vinegar, dish soap, cleaning products, gasoline, and more. These products, while effectively toxic to SLF, are again just as harmful to all insects and beneficial organisms. These products may also severely damage plant species they are applied to. Finally, these products may persist in the environment, having long term effects on ecosystem health in contrast to controls developed specifically for insect control that purposefully degrade and do not have long term impact on the environment.

Western PA Spotted Lanternfly Roundtable

The Western PA SLF Roundtable is made possible thanks to the PA Department of Agriculture's 2022- 2023 Spotted Lanternfly Program Grants for Conservation Districts. This collaboration is comprised of the following organizations: