University of Maryland Extension

Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) I—Background

By Joseph A. Fiola, Ph.D., Specialist in Viticulture and Small Fruit; Kelly Hamby, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Entomology
Timeline: Timely Viticulture - Mid Season, Pre-Harvest, and Harvest

 The Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) is now confirmed in Cecil and Harford Counties in Maryland, and populations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia have been growing. The pest has been impacting vineyards in Pennsylvania. What is clear at this junction is that (1) grapevines are a favorite host of this pest and, (2) its feeding damage coupled with winter cold stress can cause vine death. At ground zero in Pennsylvania, feeding from this pest, combined with the moderately cold winters of 2017/18 and 2018/19 has done significant damage to multiple commercial vineyards.

This Timely Viticulture was created to give growers some background on the SLF. The subsequent TimelyVit Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) II - Scouting and Management, addresses management options. This is a “newly introduced” pest and  we are rapidly learning its biology and habits, but beware it has the potential to be a very significant challenge in vineyards.

Monitoring for Spotted Lanternfly in Maryland

As SLF has been detected in Maryland, early detection will aid in quarantine and management efforts. Be diligent in scouting for this pest, especially along tree lines.

If you believe you have identified a SLF (please see details below) in Maryland:

  • Contact your local University of Maryland Extension Office or the Maryland Department of Agriculture with the location and host ASAP. (MDA (410) 841-5920;
  • For confirmation, carefully collect a specimen of all life stages found in a clear rigid container. Freeze to kill or place in an alcohol or vinegar solution (hand sanitizer or white vinegar works well) and submit
    specimens to your local extension office or MDA.
  • If you cannot collect a specimen, submit a high-quality photograph to your local extension office.

Background and Hosts

  • The Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, is an invasive plant hopper that was introduced from Asia.
  • It was first discovered in Berks County, PA, in 2014 and despite major quarantine efforts, it has spread rapidly to the surrounding counties, as well as New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia.
  • This pest is native to China, India, Japan, and Vietnam. It was introduced into Korea where it has been recorded to be a pest on 65 different plant species (25 of these are known in Pennsylvania).
  • SLF has a very wide host range and attacks many fruit crops including grapes, apples, and stone fruits; it has the potential for great impact on these crops, as well as ornamentals and hedgerow plants.
  • The Tree of Heaven (TOH—an invasive tree), Ailanthus altissima, is preferred by adults.
  • Eggs have been found on vehicles and other objects, so it is very easy for this pest to be moved to another area (a “hitchhiker”).

Spotted Lanternfly


  • Newly laid egg masses are about 1” long with a grey “mud-like” covering over the eggs which, cracks over time (figure A).
  • Older egg masses appear as 4-7 columns of 30-50 brownish seed-like deposits on the trunk, in a mass that is roughly 1” long (figure F).
  • Eggs are commonly laid on the Tree of Heaven, but can be laid on inanimate objects such as rocks, vehicles, etc.
  • Young immature stages (1-3 instars) are smaller than a dime and black with white spots (figure B)
  • The last immature stage (4th instar) develops bright red patches and are over 1/2” long (figure C).
  • The adult SLF is approximately 1.5" long and 1/2" wide and has four wings which fold across their back while resting (figure D).
    • The forewings are grey with black spots; the wing tips are outlined in grey (figure E).
    • The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black separated by a white band (figure E).
    • The legs and head are black; the abdomen is yellow with broad black bands (figure E).

Life cycle

  • Adult females lay eggs in the fall; they cover their newly laid egg masses with a grey pitch like substance (figure A) that protects them.
  • Eggs are commonly laid on the Tree of Heaven, but can be laid on grapevines, other hosts, and objects such as rock, furniture, vehicles, etc.
  • SLF overwinters as eggs; adults are not known to overwinter.
  • After hatching in late April or early May, the nymphs will move off the Tree of Heaven and search for other hosts in the spring.
  • Life stages include eggs, 5 instar nymphal stages (do not fly), and adults.
    • Early nymphal stages move to the vineyard in late spring; later stages have been noted in vineyards in mid summer.
    • All stages have been noted in vineyards at the same time.
  • Adults typically appear in late August through September, are mobile (can fly), and can be active through early winter.
  • Currently only 1 generation per season have been documented in the region.

SLF as a vineyard pest
Spotted Lanternfly on cluster of grapes and Sooty Mold on Grape leaf

  • All nymphal stages can feed and therefore cause damage to grapes and
    susceptible crops.
  • Nymphs and adults are vascular feeders (phloem, xylem), feeding primarily on trunks, cordons and canes.
  • SLF typically do not feed on the foliage or the fruit; they may be found
    on/in the clusters seeking warmth.
  • At night they migrate to ground level and then crawl back up the next
  • Early in the fall the adults will congregate mainly on stems. (figure G)
  • Honeydew secreted by the insects can stick to leaves and fruit and can lead to patches of sooty mold, which can cause secondary problems and reduce fruit quality (figure H).
  • Feeding damage and mold will attract ants, yellow jackets, and hornets
    (so caution is advised).
  • It is not know whether the presence of insects in the must can taint the wine.
  • As was stated previously, feeding from this pest, combined with cold winter temperatures, can cause major damage or death to grapevines.



  • Penn State University Faculty: Heather Leach, Michela Centinari, Julie Urban, Erica Smyers, Emelie Swackhamer, Dave Biddinger, Greg Krawchek, Michael Saunders.

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Timely Viticulture is designed to give those in the Maryland grape industry a timely reminder on procedures or topics they should be considering in the vineyard. To view other topics you can go to the Timely Viticulture page that is located on the Grapes and Fruit website.

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