The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is the latest non-native species to take hold in the U.S. This planthopper is large, about a half-inch long, and originally from China/Bangladesh/Vietnam. It was first found in Pennsylvania in 2014, and since then, active infestations have also established in Virginia, New Jersey, and Delaware. SLF has not been detected in South Carolina, but it is an insect for which we need to be on the lookout.
The insect has one generation per year, overwintering as eggs, which hatch in the spring. Nymphs feed and go through several developmental stages, developing the red color just before becoming adults. Adults are present starting in mid-summer and spend the rest of the summer feeding; they mate and lay eggs in the fall.
SLF has over 70 confirmed hosts, and they seem to prefer feeding on fruit trees (e.g., apple, plum, peach, cherry), grape vines, and other smooth-barked tree species (e.g., walnut, birch, maple). And, in an interesting case of invasive species, feeding on an invasive species; they also prefer tree-of-heaven. SLF will even feed on some vegetable plants and shrubs. Conifers do not appear to be host plants. SLF feeds by inserting its mouthparts into the host and extracting the liquids. Unused (waste) liquid is eliminated by the insect from its posterior end. This waste liquid is high in sugar and is called honeydew. Honeydew coats whatever is below the feeding insect, leaving the surface sticky. Black mold (called sooty mold) then grows on the honeydew, and bees & wasps can also be attracted to honeydew.
Since we don’t yet have SLF in South Carolina, we are asking everyone to please keep a lookout for this insect. Should it arrive, the potential damage to our state’s agriculture and natural resources could be severe.
More information on the spotted lanternfly can be found on this Clemson Extension fact sheet: https://www.clemson.edu/extension/publications/files/forestry-wildlife/fnr-spotted-lanternfly-mgmt.pdf. If you think you have found a spotted lanternfly, please contact the Clemson Department of Plant Industry at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 864-646-2140.