Invasive Pest on the Horizon: Spotted Lanternfly

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It seems we can’t catch a break from invasive pests entering our ecosystems. There is now another non-native pest on the horizon and that is the spotted lanternfly. Spotted lanternfly is an invasive plant-hopper that was first detected in the United States in Pennsylvania, in 2014. The pest is native to northern China and was introduced to Korea in 2004 where it has become a major pest. This pest is not known to occur in North Carolina but early detection is critical for protecting North Carolina businesses and agriculture. This insect is a known host pest of grapes, stone fruits, apples, pine trees, willows, and tree of heaven. Adults of spotted lanternfly are approximately 1” long and 0.5” wide at rest. Their forewings are light gray with black spots with wing tips patterned with lines of small black blocks. The hindwings are red and black with a white band. Their bodies are yellow with black bands down the middle.

Image of an adult spotted lanternfly with red-and-white nymphs. Photo by Steve Ausmus, USDA/ARS.

Adult spotted lanternfly with red-and-white nymphs. Photo by Steve Ausmus, USDA/ARS.

This pest damages trees causing them to develop weeping wounds that leave a gray or black trail of sap down the trunk. This sap attracts other insects, such as wasps and ants, and can lead to the formation of fungal mats at the base of trees. In late fall, adults will lay egg masses on host trees and other smooth surfaces like outdoor furniture and equipment. These egg masses have a gray, mud-like appearance.

If you think you’ve found spotted lanternfly please collect a specimen and contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office who can put you in contact with a plant pest specialist from the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. You can also take a picture and send to newpest@ncagr.gov.

For more information on insect pests and other topics please contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Franklin County Center at 919-496-3344 or Colby Griffin, Commercial and Consumer Horticulture Extension Agent, at colby_griffin@ncsu.edu.