Killing Spotted Lanternfly: What Pros in Lehigh Valley Recommend

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Spotted Lantern fly on stoneWhether you’ve already found them on your own property or you’re worried they’re coming, like most Lehigh Valley homeowners, you likely have some concerns about the Spotted Lanternfly. 

That concern is well-justified. After all, experts have been warning that this pest is growing and becoming more destructive. We already know from dealing with the Spotted Lanternfly in the past that it can literally suck the life out of plants. Unfortunately, the list of plant types that it “prefers” seems to be growing.

Fortunately, we’re also getting better about treating for them. Spotted Lanternfly control methods have improved and Lehigh Valley homeowners can have hope that their beloved landscapes can be saved.

Identifying the Spotted Lanternfly 

By now, you have probably already seen one of these pests with your own eyes. The Spotted Lanternfly was first discovered in Berks County in 2014 and has spread to other areas of the state, including the Lehigh Valley, quite rapidly.

The Spotted Lanternfly overwinters in egg masses that are typically laid on hard surfaces and begin hatching at some point in May. The emerging nymphs (immature versions of the adults) will then feed on host plants throughout their development, making this insect a threat at all stages of its life.

Spotted Lanternfly nymph on leaf

Nymphs are black with white specks but will molt into a pattern of red, black, and white. Within the nymph stage, there are 4 sub-stages.

  • The First Nymph Stage (May to June): Nymphs are black with white spots.
  • The Second Nymph Stage (June to July): Nymphs are still black with white spots but are larger.
  • The Third Nymph Stage (June to July): Again, the nymphs have only grown in size at this point.
  • The Fourth Nymph Stage (July to September): At this stage, the nymphs not only increase in size but also change color, developing red patches. From this stage, they quickly become adults. 

Typically, starting as soon as July, these pests will become mature adults. The adult Spotted Lanternfly is easy to identify with its distinct color pattern. Its forewings are gray with black spots while its wingtips feature black blocks outlined in gray. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black and its abdomen is yellow. 

As an adult, this pest is approximately one-inch long. The adults have piercing mouthparts which are used to suck the sap out of trees and shrubs. In the Spotted Lanternfly’s native habitat of China, its preferred host plant is Ailanthus altissima, or “Tree of Heaven.” 

However, since turning up in the United States, the list of host plants that the Spotted Lanternfly prefers seems to keep growing. It’s been estimated that this pest poses a risk to $18 billion worth of agriculture commodities produced in Pennsylvania, including fruits and hardwoods.

Unfortunately, it is also actively found in residential landscapes. Plants of any size, from big trees to small shrubs, are proving to be victims of this destructive pest. In fact, they’ve shown that they’ll feed on almost any plant in North America—though the official number is somewhere around 65 different plant species. These include Willows, Maples, Poplars, Oaks, Pines, and more.

Signs of a Spotted Lanternfly Problem

It’s possible to notice a Spotted Lanternfly problem when these pests are still young. That’s because even the early feeding by nymphs can cause noticeable damage including stunted growth and reduced production.

Spotted Lanternflies on tree

In addition, when these insects feed on a tree, the tree will develop weeping wounds dripping with sap. This can attract other insects to the site, such as ants, yellow jackets, mosquitoes, and wasps. In time, sooty mold will grow on the excreted sap turning leaves, stems, and tree trunks black.

Spotted Lanternfly Control

Research on the Spotted Lanternfly is being performed at a rapid pace and the good news is that Spotted Lanternfly control methods have improved. As we learn more about these destructive pests, we’re also learning how to deal with them.

Killing Spotted Lanternfly Eggs

According to the Penn State Extension, killing Spotted Lanternfly eggs is the first step toward better control. If you can identify egg masses and kill them in this stage, you’ll be taking important steps toward prevention.

Here’s what the Penn State Extension recommends:

Walk around your property to check for egg masses on trees, cement blocks, rocks, and other hard surfaces where they are commonly laid. Many people have found that these pests lay their eggs on cars (which has been a common way they’ve been transported to new areas). 

If you find egg masses anywhere on your property between September and May, scrape them off using a plastic card or putty knife. Scrape them into a bag or container filled with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to ensure they are killed.

Killing Spotted Lanternfly Nymphs

Of course, it’s not always that easy to spot egg masses and many might be missed. Their “mud-like” appearance also allows them to blend in with their surroundings. So, the next step in control is killing Spotted Lanternfly nymphs.

The Penn State Extension recommends tree banding. When nymphs first hatch, they will walk up the trees to feed on the softer new growth of the plant. By wrapping your tree trunks with sticky tape, you will trap the nymphs. While the tape may trap some adults, they are typically too strong making this an ideal control method while the pest is still in the nymph stage.

Though not highly common, there have been some reports of birds and small mammals becoming stuck to the tape. To avoid this, you can cage your sticky bands in with wire or fencing material.

Check and change your traps weekly or at least bi-weekly.

Professional Spotted Lanternfly Control

At Joshua Tree, we are having quite a bit of success with killing the Spotted Lanternfly on Lehigh Valley properties. We implemented a program for Spotted Lanternfly control that includes a combination of treatments. 

It starts with two, possibly three, spray applications in which we are spraying the trunk and the leaves of the tree. We are also performing a systemic treatment at the root zone with an injection into the soil. This will translocate throughout the entire tree.

spraying spotted lanternfly control allentown bethlehem easton pa

This is a customized approach. That means the exact product that we utilize is determined by what type of plant species we’re treating. 

Typically, 4 treatments would be performed starting in the spring and going through the fall. It is ideal to attack this destructive pest early in order to protect your landscape. However, if you are late to the game in having your trees treated, you can still join the program later in the season. We can finish out this year’s treatment and then plan to start early next year. 

The starting price for the Spotted Lanternfly control program is $90 per treatment for small properties. This includes all of the trees and shrubs on site. We can perform our Spotted Lanternfly control program as a stand-alone service or as part of a larger, more comprehensive program that is customized to your landscape needs.

Check Out Our Plant Health Care Programs & Pricing

Working with a Company that Understands the Spotted Lanternfly

The Spotted Lanternfly threat is serious and it’s important to you that you work with a company that understands how to deal with it. While this pest is finally getting on more companies’ radars, at Joshua Tree, we have been researching it and even giving presentations about it since its arrival to our area. 

That’s because we feel strongly about the responsibility that comes with being a tree care company. We believe it is our duty to educate and inform Lehigh Valley property owners about any pests that might pose a threat to their landscape. As new information has emerged about the Spotted Lanternfly, we have remained on top of it. 

tree inspection spotted lanternfly

Of course, this pest is just one of dozens that might be impacting your landscape’s health. That’s why it’s incredibly valuable to work with a landscape company that offers a comprehensive Plant Health Care program that will address the various potential issues that could be occurring on your Lehigh Valley property. It’s not uncommon for properties to be dealing with multiple issues at once. A Spotted Lanternfly control service is a valuable addition to a Plant Health Care program.

It’s also important to work with a company that is always on the lookout for problems and that will know the right solutions to put into action. When it comes to something as valuable as your landscape, you want to feel confident that you’re in good hands. 

At Joshua Tree, we can offer you the peace of mind that you’re after.

If you’re interested in having a complimentary evaluation of the trees at your Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton, PA home or learning more about our Plant Health Care program, we can help put your mind at ease.

Identifying tree and shrub insects, disease, and mites.

Image sources: spotted lanternfly on stonespotted lanternfly nymph, spotted lanternflies on tree

Joshua Malik

Written by Joshua Malik

With an intense passion for arboriculture and lawn care, founder Joshua Malik brings to Joshua Tree over 20 years of experience in the tree and lawn care industry. And he expects the same passion in his team by employing representatives and field personnel who have achieved and maintained proper industry credentials to ensure clients benefit through best practices.