Adult spotted lanternfly

Adult spotted lanternfly has distinguishing features.

State agricultural announced that an established population of the spotted lanternfly, a highly invasive insect known to attack over 70 species of woody plants, was found less than 20 miles north of the North Carolina-Virginia state line a few weeks ago.

Officials said it was found in Hillsville, Va. In response, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services — Plant Industry Division issued a warning to North Carolina residents regarding the increased likelihoo of this highly invasive pest showing up North Carolina.

The NCDA said the greatest impact in North Carolina is expected to result from spotted lanternfly infestations feeding on grape vines, apple and other fruit tree trunks and limbs.

Officials said it the insect prefers to lay its eggs and feed on invasive tree-of-heaven (alanthus) trees, it also will lay eggs and feed on various native trees, including pine, maple and yellow poplar. Officials said it therefore could adversely impact the tree nursery and timber industries.

Removing tree-of-heaven trees is one way to help avoid infestations of the insects, say agricultural officials.

“The spotted lanternfly uses straw-like mouthparts to suck nutrients and sugars from plants, reducing plant vigor. This increases susceptibility to other stress agents, reduces crop quality and quantity, impacts plant cold hardiness, and can lead to death. Spotted lanternfly is notorious for its habit to cluster together which not only means many insects feed simultaneously, but they can be quite a nuisance to the public,” stated an N.C. Cooperative Extension Service press release

“If established in North Carolina, the spotted lanternfly will quickly become notorious and greatly disliked. Early detection is critical in management of this pest. Everyone is asked to stay vigilant and report spotted lanternfly if you see or suspect that you see it,” stated an NCDA press release.

People seeing an insect they believe is the spotted lanternfly is asked to photograph it and email the photo to badbug@ncagr.gov or call the NCDA at 919-707-3730.

People coming from areas known to have spotted lanternfly are encouraged to check their vehicles for the insects because this is a primary way their range is expanded.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the spotted lanternfly seldom kills a host tree or other plant. However, it causes branch dieback, oozing wounds and leaf wilting. “When combined with other stressors, these impacts can overwhelm and kill the host.”

“Large infestations of can dramatically reduce grape, apple, and hop yields, as well as damage economically important hardwood trees including maple, black walnut, cherry, and birch. These impacts have been well-documented in the United States and other countries.”

The insect is native to China, India and Vietnam, but it spread to Korea around 2006. It was detected in Pennsylvania in 2014, and has since been found to have confirmed populations in Delaware, New Jersey Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio, Indiana and Massachusetts.

The adult spotted lanternfly is about an inch long. The fore wings are greyish-brown with black spots, with wing tips having a darker, brick-and-mortar pattern. The hind wings are mainly red with black spots, followed by a white band and a black tip. When the spotted lanternfly is at rest, a hint of the red color can be observed through the forewings, but the color is especially noticeable when it is in flight. The body is mainly black, but the abdomen appears to be mostly yellow with black bands going down its length.

The nymphs have a tendency to crawl up trees in the morning and back down them in the evening. They often do this in large groups, so it can be very noticeable. The insects sometimes cluster on buildings, fly into homes and businesses.

They drop honeydew on cars and other objects. This sugary substance collects on vegetation and leaves below feeding locations and promote growth of a sooty mold.

The eggs are laid in groups of 30-50, coated with a waxy gray film. When this film dries, it can appear similar to a splash of mud, which can make them difficult to notice. The eggs will hatch in the spring, usually in late April or early May. The nymphs are small and black with white spots when they first hatch. As the nymphs mature, they start to show red coloring, especially around their head, abdomen and wing pads.

— Staff report

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