How to Protect Your Yard from the Spotted Lanternfly
Last updated: 07/29/21
Estimated read time: 4.5 minutes
First identified here in 2018, the spotted lanternfly is an invasive species capable of causing serious damage all over the east coast. They aren’t picky eaters, targeting trees, crops, vines, and agricultural crops almost indiscriminately. While the spotted lanternfly represents a very real threat to your yard, you’re far from powerless to stop them. So let’s take a few minutes to learn about these new pests on the block and what you can do to stop them!
What Do Spotted Lanternflies Look Like?
At all stages of their lives, spotted lanternflies are easy to identify as they don’t bear any particular resemblance to native insects and have distinct physical characteristics. Their key features depend on what stage of life they’re in.
- Adults: Normally growing to just under an inch in length, they have black heads, four visible forelegs, dull orange eyes, and grey or brown wings adorned with their characteristic black spots. Additionally, when in flight, their bright red hindwings are easily visible. Adult female lanternflies are slightly larger than their male counterparts and have a red spot near the end of their abdomen.
- Larval: In their larval stage, lanternflies are just as easy to recognize. Early-stage nymphs look like large aphids but are jet black in color with white spots while late-stage nymphs are red with white spots and black markings.
- Egg: Female lanternflies prefer to lay their eggs in trees but any flat wooden surface will do. Lanternfly eggs are laid in groups of about 30-50 and are arranged in flat, white masses that can be easily mistaken for fungus or mold. Eventually though, the white protective layer will fall off, revealing the brown eggs, arranged in neat rows.
Why are Spotted Lanternflies a Problem?
Spotted lanternflies rarely kill the plants they feed on, but the side effects of their activity often can. Part of a large group of insects known as planthoppers, lanternflies go from plant to plant—often in immense numbers—feeding on sap. However, the real issue begins when these liquids are exposed during their feeding. This sugar-laden liquid called honeydew can attract more destructive pests and is an ideal growing environment for various molds. Trees are typically spared the worst of this, but a bad lanternfly infestation can cause them significant stress, leaving them vulnerable to disease.
How Can I Keep Them Out of My Yard?
Despite their name, spotted lanternflies aren’t strong fliers. Their wings can carry them short distances, but they typically cover longer treks as hitchhikers on cars. One of the best ways that you can prevent the spread of lanternflies to your yard is to thoroughly check and clean your vehicle. Many areas in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and are home to severe infestations, so if you’re driving through an affected county, a professional carwash can go a long way toward keeping them out of your yard.
Additionally, be sure to inspect and clean any yard fixtures or tools that have traveled from an area of high lanternfly concentration. Click here to see a map of heavily affected counties from the Midatlantic and New England and assess your personal risk factor based on your travel history.
I Have Lanternflies in my Yard! What Can I Do?
While a lanternfly infestation in your yard may seem daunting, remember that there’s plenty to be done about it. Both nature and professionals offer solutions to the lanternfly problem, including:
- Native Predators: Local hunters like wasps, spiders, and praying mantids all target lanternflies, so fostering welcoming conditions from them around your home can go a long way toward fighting an infestation. So instead of squishing that spider next time you see one in your home, put it outside and let it go to work!
- Egg Removal: An excellent way to curb the spread of spotted lanternflies is also one of the simplest. Just remove their eggs! Standard rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer is highly effective at killing the eggs, so just place newly removed eggs in a container of either one.
- Soapy Water Sprays: Simple sprays of soapy water (equal parts liquid soap and water) are effective at killing lanternflies in their nymph stage. Better still, they’re easy on affected plants, making this an easy, affordable, and sustainable option.
- Traps: Sticky banding traps wrapped around trees can be a strong defense against adult lanternflies. These should be installed by a professional and should be used in conjunction with a screen cover so as not to catch birds or beneficial insects.
- Neem Oil and Insecticidal Soap: When applied to the surface of plants, both neem oil and insecticidal soaps have been shown to be effective at deterring spotted lanternflies. Just remember that they need to be reapplied regularly in order to work.
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Do I Need Professional Lanternfly Control?
Lanternflies are relatively new to our part of the country and research is still being done on the most effective way to fight them. This, unfortunately, means that even well-intended DIY treatments may inadvertently make the problem worse. For severe infestations, professional spotted lanternfly control is highly recommended. Spotted lanternflies can spread quickly, so the moment you notice them on your property, give us a call right away and we can help you find the best solution to handle them!
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