The spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest that has spread to the United States, South Korea, and Japan. It is a planthopper insect that is native to Vietnam, Taiwan, and Southern China. Being known to feed on more than 70 host plant species, it’s a big deal to have it anywhere. If you’ve noticed a spotted bug feasting on fruit and woody trees, you’ve definitely got a spotted lanternfly. Here are some surefire ways to get rid of the pest, so you can get back to enjoying what nature has to offer.
Understanding the Spotted Lanternfly
Before getting into methods of eliminating the spotted lanternfly, you first need to know about what it is and what it does to help you in your pest control mission.
This rather pretty but havoc-wreaking bug doesn’t sting or bite people or pets, so on the plus side, you don’t have to worry about treating reactions from it. Like some other pests, such as cockroaches, it spreads by people moving with egg-infested items. It peaks during the late summer and early, which is when it undergoes collective flight called “swarming.” It’s during that short period of time when it disperses during its adult moth stage to feast on plants in large numbers.
What it feeds on specifically is the sap of plants, including tree-of-heaven (Chinese sumac), grapevines, birch, willow, black walnut, maple, hops, grapes, and stone fruit, costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in a wasted crop. Not only does it drain the energy sources of plants, but it leaves behind a sugary fluid waste called honeydew that coats leaves and stems, which attracts other insects and promotes mold growth that is black and sooty in appearance. Plus, the destruction it leaves in its wake of several holes further leaks the plant’s sap. For small-scale homesteaders or farmers, it is devastating.
The insect hatches from egg masses as a nymph. The nymph stage has many immature phases called instars, which are all wingless. After the first instar, which is black with white spots, the other instars have red patches with white spots. The last instar has a red upper body and red wing pads, followed by molting into its adult form of a black head, grayish wings, and black spots. The first, second, and third instars have a wide range of hosts which eventually narrow down.
Nymphs hatch anywhere from late April to early May. Adults can appear as early as July to mate and lay eggs from late September through the start of winter. You can recognize the presence of spotted lanternflies from egg masses, plant damage, mold growth, and plant death. The best time for finding and destroying egg masses is during the winter through early spring.
Fortunately, most people will notice spotted lanternfly infestation before there’s too much damage. Some of the main ways of eliminating the pest are doing so naturally, using a homemade spray, or resorting to insecticide. Most importantly, you need to know how to do pest control properly to prevent a recurrence.
Methods for Getting Rid of Spotted Lanternflies
- Kill eggs and reduce hosts: This is the first and most important step to go along with any other method. You must scrape the eggs off of the plant surfaces, double bag them, and throw them away. It’s best if you have alcohol or hand sanitizer in the bags, which will kill the eggs. Next, you’ll want to remove most of its favorite host, the Chinese sumac or tree-of-heaven. Leave the male trees behind to trap the pest and put sticky banding tape on them, covering them with chicken wire or another type of wire to prevent animals from getting trapped, injured, or dying.
- Naturally: Using the spotted lanternfly’s natural predators is a great, non-invasive way of handling the pest by using their position on the food chain against them. So what animals eat spotted lanternflies? Gray catbirds, cats, dogs, ducks, chickens, wheel bugs, hornets, green frogs, fishing spiders, goldfish, koi fish, and yellow jackets have all been known to prey on them. In reality, though, spotted lanternflies have few natural predators in their environment, and you are not likely to happen to have many of them around or be able to find and transfer them to your land. What can you do, then? Cats, dogs, ducks, chickens, fishing spiders, wheel bugs, and green frogs are your best bet. Consider purchasing green frogs and beneficial insects that eat pests. If you already have a cat, dog, ducks, or chickens that go outside, you’re in luck, and only need to direct them to where the pests are.
- Homemade spray: Although there are no approved home remedies, a homemade spray is another way to get rid of spotted lanternflies naturally. With a similar logic used for killing the eggs, you must have a chemical that is effective on huge numbers. White vinegar or neem oil in a spray bottle kills them on contact. So does a few drops of lavender, tea tree or peppermint essential oil added to water. Dawn dish soap mixed in an equal amount with water or dish soap with neem oil and water is also effective against bugs and eggs alike.
- Traps: An alternative to homemade spray is using traps. The best traps are those using either neem oil traps or dish soap mixed with vinegar in mason jars.
- Insecticide: When all else fails, you’re going to have to use an insecticide You’ll want an insecticide that is the least toxic, and that means one that is registered with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for efficacy and safety. Wearing protective clothing and gear, avoiding water sources, following directions, using only the necessary amount, and protecting flowering plants and pollinators are all important for using insecticide correctly. Also, many states have insecticides list the plant sites they are registered to be used on, although they may not have to list spotted lanternflies to legally use them on the pests.
Spotted lanternflies are an invasive pest that damage and even kill the over 70 species of plants they feed on, including flowers, vegetables, crops, and fruit. If you have spotted lanternflies on your land, you will immediately understand the damage they cause, and that they’re hard to kill. It’s important to be able to get rid of them properly so they don’t come back. As a gardener or farmer, the ability to handle pests is essential for preserving your plants. One or more of the aforementioned methods of doing so including naturally, using a homemade spray, or using an insecticide is sure to help you eliminate the pest once and for all.