A new scourge of our gardens, the Spotted Lanternfly is quickly climbing the list of the most invasive pests in Pennsylvania and beyond. They are invading North America so quickly that the US Department of Agriculture has declared an emergency fund of $17.5 million to tackle their spread. While we might not have the budget of a government department, each of us still has to deal with these pests trying to take over our yards - so learning more about them and how to save our gardens from them is quickly becoming more and more important.
SPOTTED LANTERNFLY AND OUR BACKYARDS
These invasive pests have an appetite for a wide range of some of our favorite backyard plants. They’ll feed on everything - including Willow, Maple, Tree of Heaven, Poplar, Apple, Pine, Grape and Prunus trees - and plants of any size can become their prey. The best defense for your backyard is to identify the pests early so that you can tackle the problem before they get established. When it comes to these pests, timely detection is the leg up you’ll need to keep your plants alive and thriving.
GET TO KNOW THE LANTERNFLY
As much as we don’t want to think too much about these pests, getting to know them and how they work is the best way to get a competitive edge when you’re trying to keep them your of your yard. Spotted lanternflies are a native species of Southeast Asia, and as such, our plants have no natural resistance to them. This is why they have become such an invasive problem here in Pennsylvania. Here’s why they cause so many issues, and how to think like a lanternfly:
Hosting and Feeding - With a reputation for a big appetite and the ability to live on almost any plant or tree in North America, the lanternfly is officially able to make a host of 65 different plant species. Chances are, you have one of those susceptible plants in your yard. While the nymphs of the insect eat away at your plants, the adults have similarly voracious appetites plus a pair of wings. Once mature, lanternflies fly off to find new hosts to lay more eggs in, continuing the cycle.
The constant feeding is a drain on your plants. While some larger plants can withstand it, the weeping wounds left behind are susceptible to infection or other insects. Smaller plants might end up wilting and dying. To add insult to injury, the lanternfly leaves behind sugary excrement as they feed that attracts other undesirable insects like mosquitoes, ants, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets. The excrement also encourages mold on the host plants.
Identifying Lanternflies - Thankfully, the flies are so distinctive that they are easy to identify. An adult lanternfly has a yellow striped body, front wings that are light brown with black spots, and rear wings that are bright red with black spots and black and white bands. The nymphs are black with white spots, but will quickly show red spots as they mature. As they usually congregate in groups, they’ll be easy to spot at the base or in the canopy of the plant.
The hardest to identify are the eggs, which are laid in large groups that look like clay mounds. They easily blend in to the branches and stems of plants, as well as on other objects in your yard like cars, chairs, or sheds.
STOPPING THE SPOTTED LANTERNFLY
Fortunately for us, the lanternflies aren’t accustomed to our chilly Pennsylvania winters, so the adults don’t survive from year to year. Only the eggs are protected enough to overwinter, but they will hatch in the spring to start new problems for your garden each year. In order to get ahead of these pests, try these steps:
Examine the plants in your yard over the summer for signs of lanternflies. You might see the flies themselves, or the evidence of their damage on some of your more tender and small plants.
If you find evidence of lanternflies, use adhesive bands on the infected plants to capture the flies as they ascend and descend up and down the stem of the plant. Change the bands out regularly and soak them in soapy water to kill the flies.
Scrape lanternfly eggs away with a flat knife and kill them with alcohol or hand sanitizer. Check around everything in your yard, from windshield wipers, to doorways, to patio furniture to find the eggs before they hatch.
If a tree or plant is infested and beyond saving, remove it and apply an insecticide to prevent the pests from moving on to other hosts - in your yard or elsewhere in your neighbourhood.
While they can be a complete nuisance in your yard, the benefit is that the spotted lanternfly is totally harmless to humans and won’t attack or bite. While you might be safe, the destruction they can bring to your yard can be frustrating and expensive. Preventing them from taking over your yard is an important step in fighting their spread across the whole country. Keeping your own yard and your neighbourhood safe from these pests can be easy with some proactive care - and our team is equipped to help you take them on.