Stopping the spotted lanternfly

Top view of spotted lanternfly. iStock

Spotted lanternflies are invasive insects from Asia, first found in Pennsylvania in Berks County in 2014. The bugs feed on sap from several plants, including grapevines, black walnuts, maple willow and birch trees. In 2019, a Penn State economic impact study reported a potential loss of 2,800 jobs and $324 million if the pests were left untreated.

This is what spotted lanternfly eggs look like in the spring. They should be scraped from trees before they hatch. iStock

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recommends removing ailanthus, also called tree of heaven, as it is a preferred lanternfly habitat. As the winter months approach, lanternflies are laying eggs in a variety of places. One common place to find eggs is on or near trees where females were feeding during the egg-laying period in the fall. Preferred tree hosts include red maple, silver maple, and willows, although you can find the eggs on other trees on which they do not typically feed, including black cherry, pine, and others. You can also find their eggs in protected areas under rocks and on lawn furniture, decks, fences and many other surfaces.

If you come across an egg mass, you can destroy it—and wipe out as many as 50 potential lanternflies—by scraping the eggs from the surface where they were laid into an alcohol solution, like rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer, or just by squashing them. In the spring, as the flies hatch and become active, we will show you how to combat them with homemade traps. Seriously, we have to wipe these guys out.