Our friends at the Garden Professor’s Blog have a great profile on this attractive-looking but dangerous new invasive pest. As of late November 2022, the spotted lanternfly (SLF) was in upper New York State, a mere 5 km from the Canadian border. Consequently, it is another nasty invasive species that is likely to enter Ontario in 2023 and will probably make its way to Ottawa soon after.
Abi Saeed, the Extension Horticulture Specialist at Montana State University, writes that the SLF (Lycorma delicatula) is a 1″ (2.5 cm) long planthopper native to China. It has since spread to Japan, South Korea, and the United States. This piercing/sucking insect feeds on the phloem of plants and excretes a sweet and sticky product called honeydew. SLF feeding damage, especially in large populations, can impact the health of certain plant species. Not to mention the nuisance potential, as any objects under infestations of this insect will find themselves coated in a sticky layer of honeydew.
In the USA, the SLF was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014, and has since moved to several surrounding states including Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia. Most US states are considered at risk for SLF invasion. Although the insect itself can’t fly long distances, it can be easily spread by moving infested materials and through their egg masses which look fairly nondescript (like a small smear of mud).
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website also has some excellent information about the SLF. Among the preferred food sources of the SLF are plants that are economically important, including grapevines, maples, black walnut, birch and willow. A 2019 economic impact study estimates that, uncontrolled, this insect could cost Pennsylvania $324 million annually and more than 2,800 jobs.
Among the things we gardeners can do to help halt the spread of this invasive pest:
- Learn to recognize the bug in its various life phases.
- Destroy egg masses if you see them.
- Don’t move woody material that might be infected.
- In Canada, report any sightings the Invasive Species Centre by calling 705-541-5790 or emailing email@example.com.
How telephone poles could help stop the spotted lanternfly
The Penn State Berks Center for the Agricultural Sciences and a Sustainable Environment (CASSE) is studying the role that telephone poles can play in monitoring and eradicating the invasive spotted lanternfly. Spotted lanternflies are drawn to tall objects like skyscrapers, gas pumps, pillars and trees, according to John Rost, a research technologist in the horticulture department at Penn State Berks. The lanternflies use these perches to gain their bearings before searching for a place to feed. At the CASSE, telephone poles were used as monitoring devices to test methods of eradication. In the study, eight poles were set up in a straight line to keep a replication. Two types of traps were installed on each pole: a top trap with a sealed barrier except for an opening at the bottom and a section of pole wrapped with pesticide impregnated netting which the insects encountered on their journey to the top. At the bottom of the pole there is a catch trap to collect any dead, falling lanternflies. The article includes notes on the challenges of identifying patterns in behaviour of the spotted lanternfly, as well as details of the insect’s life-cycle.