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WANTED IN THE FLX: Spotted Lanternfly

What is Spotted Lanternfly?

Note: For more information on SLF, check out our invasive species profile that has more information on its ecology. New York State Integrated Pest Management also has resources that dive deeply into SLF’s biology. If you believe you’ve seen SLF, please take a photo and send it to spottedlanternfly@agriculture.ny.gov

  • Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula or simply ‘SLF’) is an invasive insect originally native to China. SLF was first detected in the United States, specifically near Philadelphia in 2014, likely arriving on a cargo shipment

    An adult SLF. Note the pink wings with black spots.

  • Since its arrival, SLF has rapidly spread across Pennsylvania and along the east coast, eventually arriving in New York and the Finger Lakes region in 2020
  • SLF is characterized by its colorful appearance with pink wings and black spots, and red coloration underneath the wings
  • SLF is a large insect, frequently reaching as long as 1″

 

 

SLF has a wide host range, and commonly attacks the following plant species:

  • Tree of Heaven (also an invasive species)
  • Grape vines
  • Fruit trees (most notably apple trees)
  • Hops vines
  • Maple spp.
  • Walnuts

SLF feeds on our plants not by biting them, but by sucking the sap inside the plant. So if you believe you’ve seen plants damaged by SLF, make sure you know what to look for:

 

Sooty mold from honeydew: When SLF feed on a plant in great numbers, the stem of the plant will appear black as you can see in this picture. This is caused by honeydew – or the waste of SLF as they feed. This sticky substance attracts mold that can damage the plants even further.

 

SLF does not leave holes in the plants they feed on. If you see leaves that are missing pieces or have parts clearly chewed off, it might have been from another insect, like these Japanese beetles

Range:

As of August 2021, SLF has been reported in 8 counties in New York state, including the 5 boroughs of New York City, Rockland and Orange counties downstate, and Tompkins county here in the Finger Lakes.

Lifecycle

The SLF lifecycle has four distinct phases. An egg phase from October-June, a series of small black “instars” from June-July, a larger, red colored fourth instar from July-September, and an adult stage from July-December (depending on the local climate SLF might reach maturity earlier in the year).

 

Here is some important information to know about each stage of the lifecycle:

Eggs

  • SLF eggs are most frequently laid on the host species they prefer, but can occur almost anywhere. Frequently in the past, eggs have been found on rocks, rusted metal, and on the bumpers and wheel bearings of vehicles. If you are stopping in an area where there is an active SLF infestation, make sure to check your vehicle!
  • SLF eggs are a muted grey-purple color, and can be quite difficult to find in person. Make sure if you are looking for SLF eggs, to keep a sharp eye out

Black instars

  • While as adults SLF is quite large, the initial instar phases are rather small. In fact, when SLF first hatches from its eggs, they are about the size of an ant

    A black instar bitten by an ant.

Red instar

  • These instars are much larger than their black counterparts, and are close to the size of an adult
  • These instars are capable of delivering considerable damage to plants compared to earlier phases

Adult

  • Adults are the only stage in the SLF lifecycle that is capable of flight, as this is the only stage when they have wings. Earlier instars will simply hop around to move.
  • Breeding activity amongst adults is highest in the early fall months of September and October, so this is most likely when you will see them

What can I do?

At the moment, SLF is only just beginning to enter New York. If you are concerned about SLF, keep an eye out for it! With your help, we may be able to identify populations and eradicate them before they have a chance to spread. If you believe you have found SLF, please take a picture of the insect and send that photo to spottedlanternfly@agriculture.ny.gov.

Making sure that you are not inadvertently spreading SLF is crucial as well. Ensure that when you are passing through areas that have an active SLF infestation, to check your vehicle and scrape off any egg masses before you leave.

Common Misconceptions

  • Despite the fact that they are planthoppers, SLF is capable of long, sustained flight
  • SLF DOES NOT bite humans, and they’re actually incapable of biting at all as they have no teeth
  • Unlike carpenter ants or termite, SLF does not damage structures at all, they may land on houses and other buildings but do not cause any damage

SLF Education Resources

We provide the following materials for the purposes of SLF education and outreach. Take a look at what we have to offer below:

SLF Doorhangers:

SLF Wine Tags:

Most Wanted Poster:

 

If you would like copies of these education materials, please email us at flprism@gmail.com