I do hope your New Year is off to a good start. January flew by with a few days of light snow and bone-chilling temperatures. This time of year, many of us long for warm spring weather and the joy of working in our gardens again. As spring approaches, you need to be aware of a new invasive pest that may be heading to the Mid-South, the spotted lanternfly. If you are unfamiliar with the spotted lanternfly, or Lycorma delicatula, you are not alone.
Originally, from East Asia, infestations across the Northeast have become increasingly more difficult to control since the pest’s arrival in the United States. The adult spotted lanternfly is about one inch long and has long wings. Their forewings have black spots while their hind wings are a scarlet color with black spots present at the rear. The abdomen of the adult spotted lanternfly is yellow with black bars.
The spotted lanternfly is known to feed on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) but it has many other host plants including apple, grape, maple, poplar, stone fruit and willow. Nymphs may feed on a wide range of host plants but the adults prefer to feed and lay eggs on tree of heaven.
The nymph and adult spotted lanternfly have piercing sucking mouthparts. They feed and suck sap from stems and branches. This feeding will weaken, and may eventually kill the plant.
The eggs of the spotted lanternfly are found on smooth host plant surfaces. Eggs will hatch in the spring and early summer. The nymphs begin feeding on the plant sap of young stems and branches. The adults appear in late July and feed on tree of heaven and grapevines. This, in turn, will cause the adults to excrete honeydew (sticky, sugary fluid). The honeydew will build up on the underside of leaves causing sooty mold (fungus) to form.
The spotted lanternfly has already been detected in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and Maryland. If this invasive pest migrates to our region, the damage to grape crops and orchards will be devastating. If you happen upon an insect that you suspect may be spotted lanternfly, please report it immediately to the Shelby County Extension office at 901-752-1207. All reports will be investigated and specimens professionally identified. Let us hope they do not head south and cross the Mason–Dixon line!
Take care and be safe out there.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture, Bugwood.org