The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) (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 several countries in the Far East. It was first found in Pennsylvania in 2014, and active infestations are now established in Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and as of just last week, North Carolina. 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. In North Carolina, adults and nymphs are present right now!
SLF has over 100 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, often attracting bees & wasps.
We don’t yet have SLF in South Carolina, but clearly, this insect is on the move (just ask our neighbors to the north!), so we are asking everyone to please be on the lookout for this insect. Should it arrive, the potential damage to our state’s agriculture and natural resources could be severe.
For more information on the spotted lanternfly, see LG Press Spotted Lanternfly Management in Nurseries, Orchards, Vineyards, and Natural Areas in South Carolina and Georgia. If you think you have found a spotted lanternfly, please contact the Clemson Department of Plant Industry at 864-646-2140. You can also report what you found here SLF reporting tool.