The Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive insect that came from Vietnam, China, and India. This pest was first reported in in Berks County, PA in 2014. Since then, SLF has populated surrounding areas, rapidly moving east and being found in 18 New Jersey Counties. Over the last couple of years, sightings of the Spotted Lanternfly have been reported in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. In fact, during our late winter inspections, we have found many egg masses all throughout Ocean and Monmouth Counties. It is safe to say that we are expecting a large presence of this pest in our area this year and beyond.
The Spotted Lanternfly favors the “Tree of Heaven” (Ailanthus altissima) and red maple (Acer rubrum), but they have been found feeding on over 70 species of plants, which includes trees, shrubs, vegetables and other agricultural crops such as hops and grapes. The nymphs and adults feed on the sap of the leaves and stems of the host plant which causes the wounds to ooze and leave a foul odor. These wounds produce a sticky, sugary substance called “honeydew” which will drip on anything that is under the trees. Since the honeydew is a “sugary” substance, anything that it drips on will be covered in a black, sooty mold. This could be anything from a mailbox to cars or patio furniture. In addition to the damage caused to your trees by this feeding, the sooty mold can ruin the finish of things it grows on. Both the adult and nymphal stages of the insect can damage the trees sucking the sap from the leaves and stems. Continual feeding causes wounds that weaken the trees and subject them to attack from other pests and diseases which further stress the plant and can lead to decline and death within a 2-4 year period after the initial infestation.
The Spotted Lanternfly will lay egg masses on almost anything that has a smooth surface, from trees and shrubs to cars, boats RV’s to the siding of a house. The egg masses formed by SLF look like gray mud trails about 1-2 inches long and ½ to ¾ inches wide. The nymphs begin to emerge in late April to early May and are black with white spots. As the SLF gets into a late nymph stage, they will turn red with white spots. Finally, adult Spotted Lanternflies will emerge in mid to late summer. They are described as having a ‘tent’ shaped posture when not in flight. Their wings have a pinkish-gray hue with black spots. When the wings are open, you will see a flash of red on both of their wings.
The Spotted Lanternfly is known as a prolific hitchhiker, and they will latch onto your car, truck, boat, etc. and end up somewhere miles away. They are plant hoppers and they do not fly very far. In severe cases, you will see hundreds of SLF congregating on tree trunks during dawn and dusk, and often in these severe cases, it can feel like it is raining under the tree as they feed on it.
The good news is that there are several control methods we offer to keep them at bay and reduce their populations in the spring and summer months. However, we can only help protect the trees and plants they feed on; we cannot prevent new infestations from coming to your property from neighboring properties. Protecting your trees should start with a good plant health care program that includes proper mulching extending out to the dripline if possible and consisting of only 2 inches of wood mulch, deep watering when dry, fertilization, and proper pruning in the correct season. Please contact us and we will come inspect your property and discuss with you what your options are.