With its polka dot wings, the spotted lantern fly is a fairly small insect. But the appearance can be misleading: Lycorma's delicacy is incredibly destructive. Spotted lantern flies starve in many plants, including fruit trees, hardwoods, vines and ornamental plants. As the United States Department of Agriculture notes: "If it is allowed to spread in the United States, this pest could seriously affect the country's grape, orchard and logging industries."
Originally from Southeast Asia, the pest was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since been detected in eight states. Several states have quarantines to control the flashlights. Because insects get hooked on wood, vegetation, vehicles and equipment, everything is inspected when entering and leaving those states.
Here we explain how to identify these invasive pests and get rid of them.
How to spot a spotted lantern fly
This lantern egg mass looks like some mud caked in a tree. (Photo: Amy Lutz / Shutterstock)
First make sure that the eggs or insects you see are really lantern flies. They lay eggs in the fall on hard surfaces such as houses, rocks, trees and anything left outside. The eggs are protected with a waxy cover that looks like mud while it dries, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Each dough contains about 30 to 50 eggs.
Once these eggs hatch, the insects go through four stages of nymph, reports Penn State Extension. They start at 1/2 inch or less, then they are black with white spots, then red with white dots and black stripes. Adult lantern flies appear in July and are an inch or larger. They have black bodies with gray wings with black spots. The tips of its wings are black with gray veins running through them. Then they open their wings, underneath there is a bright red wing underneath. They usually jump more than they fly and are active until winter.
Tips to get rid of spotted lantern flies
Once you know for sure that you are dealing with flashlight flies, here we explain how to eliminate them.
Egg masses can be scraped off a tree in an alcohol container or hand sanitizer. (Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture)
Lantern flies begin laying eggs in October and continue during the first hard frosts. When you see these muddy-looking doughs on hard surfaces, you can scrape them with any hard tool, such as a spatula, a stick or a credit card. Put them in a bag or container full of alcohol or hand sanitizer. Egg masses can also break or burn, says Penn State Extension.
Tying a tree with duct tape catches the flashlight fly nymphs as they emerge and begin to move. (Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture)
Once the eggs hatch, the nymphs walk towards the trees so they can feed on the smoother and newer growth. Spotted lantern fly nymphs are found in many types of trees, but prefer trees in the sky tree (Ailanthus altissima). To catch them on the spot, wrap the tree trunks with duct tape to catch the nymphs. You can buy the masking tape at a garden store or online, and keep it in place (with the adhesive side facing out) with pins, suggests the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Replace the tape approximately every two weeks until the last week of July.
To ensure that birds and small animals avoid getting caught in the tape, surround the tape in a wire cage or make the band smaller so that there is less sticky area.
Spotted lantern flies prefer sky trees. They have distinctive leaves that look like this and a crust that looks like melon skin. (Photo: Wut_Moppie / Shutterstock)
Because lantern flies prefer sky tree trees, removing these host trees is key in a pest management plan, says Penn State Extension. The tree is invasive, with a bark that looks like the outside of a melon. It receives its name because it can quickly grow up to 100 feet tall and 6 feet in diameter, absorbing valuable sun and water from native species.
Apply herbicide from July to September and wait at least 30 days before removing the tree. Foliar sprays (leaves) should cover the leaves and buds as high as you can reach, recommends the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. You should also apply herbicide to a freshly cut stump to prevent it from sprouting.
In addition to spraying lantern flies directly with insecticides, they can be chemically controlled by exposing them to the insecticide in a plant that insects eat. One way to do this is to establish "trap trees." The owner of a property removes all trees from the sky, except some, and treats them with a systemic insecticide. When the lantern flies feed on the tree, they ingest the insecticide.
Crush and crush
Sometimes, when you are overwhelmed by the lantern flies, all you can do is crush them. (Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture)
In addition to all well-researched methods to get rid of these harmful pests, there is another less scientific way, although it may sound a bit violent. If you see these annoying insects in your garden or in your trees, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture also offers you this advice: "Kill him! Smash him, crush him … just get rid of him."
Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting, and anything that helps explain why your dog does what he does.
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