University of Maryland Extension

Spotted Lanternfly


side view of the wing of a spotted lanternfly
Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). Photo: Peter L. Coffey, University of Maryland Extension

Key Points

  • Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive sap-feeding insect native to eastern Asia. It was first detected in the United States in 2014 in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

  • In Maryland, spotted lanternfly was first found in Cecil County in October 2018 and since then it has been confirmed in Harford and Washington Counties as well.

  • This pest feeds on grapes, apples, stone fruits, pines, and many other plant species. It is a threat to Maryland agricultural crops.

  • A quarantine is in place in Cecil and Harford counties. A permit is required for any businesses moving within or through these counties, along with any movement in the quarantines areas in DE, NJ, PA, and VA. Refer to the map of confirmed spotted lanternfly locations.

  • Maryland residents should be on the lookout for this pest and report sightings to the Maryland Department of Agriculture at (410) 841-5920 or DontBug.MD@maryland.gov as soon as possible.

  • Refer to (PDF) Maryland Department of Agriculture Residential Checklist if you live in an area with Spotted Lanternfly.


Behavior of Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted lanternfly is a type of planthopper insect that feeds in large groups on a wide range of plants including grapes, peaches, apples, walnuts, oaks, and pines. They do not bite or sting people or pets.

Both adults and nymphs (immatures) feed by sucking sap from plant stems, trunks, and leaves. During feeding, they produce a sugary waste substance called honeydew. The honeydew sticks to leaves and fruits where it attracts other pests and supports the growth of sooty mold, which contaminates and reduces the value of fruits, reduces plant photosynthesis, and weakens overall plant health.

shiny sticky substance on surfaces of oak leaves
Red oak leaves with honeydew from spotted lanternfly feeding. Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

The preferred host plant for the spotted lanternfly is tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive weedy tree that grows in disturbed areas on field edges and roadsides. Early research suggests that spotted lanternfly prefers to feed and reproduce on tree-of-heaven. The insects may obtain toxic chemicals from the tree which make them poisonous to potential predators. Refer to our information about tree-of-heaven and how to remove it.

plant with compound leaves with multiple leaflets with smooth margins is tree of heaven
Tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) Photo: Richard Gardner, Bugwood.org


Current Distribution & Map of Spotted Lanternfly Locations

Spotted lanternfly was first discovered in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014. A shipment of stone imported from Asia was contaminated with spotted lanternfly egg masses. Despite quarantine efforts, spotted lanternfly became established and continued to spread throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. It is now moving into nearby states including Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey.  

  • Based on climate data, most of the eastern half of the United States as well as California, Washington, and Oregon have suitable conditions for spotted lanternfly to expand its range. Refer to Lanternflies on the Move by University of Maryland by Professor Emeritus Dr. Michael Raupp.


The Life Stages of Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted Lanternfly nymphs (immature form) resemble large black aphids with white spots. There are three instars (phases) of these early-stage nymphs and they are usually found from April-July. 

black insects with white spots crawling on a branch
Spotted lanternfly nymphs (first instar). Photo: Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University, Bugwood.org

Later-stage nymphs (fourth instar) are red with white spots. These are typically found from July-September.

red insect with white spots
Spotted lanternfly (fourth instar nymph). Photo: Peter L. Coffey, University of Maryland Extension

Spotted lanternfly adults have four wings which they fold across their back while resting. The outer wings are grey with black spots and have a brick-like pattern at the wing tips. The hidden underwings have brightly contrasting large patches of red, black, and white. The legs, head, and body of the adults are black, with a pronounced yellow belly and sides that are visible by late September.

top view of an adult spotted lanternfly showing spotted wings
Spotted lanternfly adult. Photo: Peter L. Coffey, University of Maryland Extension

Spotted lanternfly eggs are laid in masses containing 30-50 individual eggs that will overwinter and hatch in the spring. Females prefer to lay eggs on tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), but they will lay eggs on any flat vertical surface, including other trees, stones, vehicles, grills, and outdoor furniture. 

Fresh egg masses can be found from October-December. They are about one inch long and have a grey mud-like covering which cracks over time as it dries out. The covering eventually flakes off revealing 30-50 brown eggs which resemble seeds set in 4-7 rows.

gray mass on tree trunk and a row of eggs
Partially covered spotted lanternfly egg mass. Photo: Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University, Bugwood.org

several rows of brown eggs on a tree trunk
Spotted lanternfly eggs. Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

 

month by month illustration of the stages of spotted lanternfly
Spotted lanternfly life cycle. Nymphs appear in April and develop through midsummer, when they begin to molt into adults. Adults will lay egg masses throughout fall, and will die by the start of winter. Egg masses will last through winter and hatch the following spring.

Video: Spotted Lanternfly Indentification and Life Cycle, Penn State University


Stop the Spread of Spotted Lanternfly

  • Prevent the spread of spotted lanternfly by inspecting your vehicle and any outdoor equipment (grills, mowers, camping supplies, firewood, etc.) when traveling in and out of the quarantine zones in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey. Refer to this (PDF) checklist to inspect for spotted lanternfly.

Manage Spotted Lanternfly Around Your Home


What to Do If You Find Spotted Lanternflies in Maryland

  • If you observe spotted lanternflies or their egg masses, inform the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) at (410) 841-5920 or DontBug.MD@maryland.gov as soon as possible. Try to collect a sample insect in a small bottle containing alcohol, or take a good clear photo of the insect and email the photo to MDA.

  • Don't panic -- Spotted lanternflies are a nuisance pest in home landscapes. They do not kill trees but will cause stress on them, so best management practices in the way of water management, soil health, and correct mulching will go far to help keep your plants healthy. Spotted lanternflies do not bite or sting people or pets, and they are not wood-boring pests of homes or other structures. 

Mechanical Control

  • Kill spotted lanternfly adults and nymphs by crushing them with gloved hands, stomp on them by foot, or drown them in a container of soapy water or rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).

  • Scrape egg masses off of plants and hard surfaces such as lawn furniture, decks, and concrete surfaces using a plastic card or tool such as a putty knife. Eggs can be crushed with gloved hands or dropped into a container of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.

  • Banding traps can be placed on trees but should be used in combination with a screen cover to prevent by-catch of birds, squirrels, beneficial insects and other animals.

Biological Control

  • Natural enemies include spiders, praying mantidsassassin bugs, and predatory stink bugs, but these are not present in high enough numbers to control new spotted lanternfly populations at this time. Nonetheless, adding a variety of flowering plants and plant types will help support generalist natural enemies in your landscape. Over time, they may shift to feed more on this new pest (as occurred with the invasive brown marmorated stink bug). It remains to be seen whether generalist natural enemies will suppress spotted lanternfly populations.

  • Research is underway on biopesticide options such as entomopathogenic (insect-killing) fungi. None are currently available at this time.

Chemical Control

  • Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil according to product label instructions. These provide good control if they are applied directly to spotted lanternflies and the surfaces on which they are feeding and walking. Neem oil and insecticidal soap have a short period of residual activity and may need to be re-applied at intervals recommended on the product label.

  • EPA-registered insecticides that are most effective for systemic control of spotted lanternfly are toxic to bees, fish, and in some cases, birds, and have specific requirements for timing, method of application, and equipment. Certain classes of systemic insecticides for spotted lanternfly may only be applied by a Maryland certified pesticide applicator, as per the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act, and these should only be considered as a last resort.
  • You are required by law to apply pesticides according to the directions on the label. This increases your safety, the safety of the environment, and the effectiveness of the pesticide. Home remedies may be harmful to people, pets, and/or plants and should not be used as pesticides.

Additional Resources

Co-authors: Christa Carignan, Horticulturist and Coordinator; Peter Coffey, Agricultural Science Agent Associate; Emily Zobel, Senior Agent Associate, University of Maryland Extension, October 2020

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