Spotted lanternfly on tree

What To Do When You Find A Spotted Lanternfly?(Spotted Lanternfly Management for Residents)

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Written By: Mark Marino, a Massachusetts Core Applicator License holder
and owner/operator of Lawn Phix,

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The spotted lanternfly (or SLF) is an invasive insect slowly moving into yards around the East Coast. Easily identified by the black spots on their wings, these pests are a spreader of sooty mold and a destructive force in fields and orchards.

This guide covers everything you should know about spotted lanternfly behavior, prevention, and elimination. We also cover specific prevention steps by state so you can report them effectively and reduce further spread.

How to Identify a Spotted Lanternfly

Indigenous to parts of China and Vietnam, the spotted lanternfly has become one of America’s most serious invasive pests. The first sighting of this insect was Berks County, Pennsylvania, although it’s quickly spread to 13 other states.

You can usually identify a spotted lanternfly adult sitting on fence posts, outdoor furniture, or patio furniture. If you have a tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) in your yard, you may notice swarming pests sucking sap or depositing egg masses.

Keep an eye out for:

  • SLF egg masses, which look like whitish/grey scales on tree bark.
  • Spotted lanternfly nymphs, which look like polka-dotted beetles with red markings.
  • Contrasting patches of light brown and broad black bands, with gray wings, bright red hind wings and a white band across the middle of the wing.

Why are these pests so dangerous? In a word, feeding. SLF feeding involves up to 173 different plant species, which means your yard may become this pests’ next victim.

Next, let’s explore the life stages of a spotted lanternfly.

The life stages of spotted lanternfly

The spotted lanternfly moves through several immature stages before reaching adulthood. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (and its extension resources ), there are five distinct stages:

  • Eggs: Spotted lanternflies lay egg masses that typically host 30 to 50 eggs. These eggs can survive through the winter in mild climates, eventually hatching in April or May.
  • Hatching/first instar stage: Late bloomers may not hatch until May or June.
  • Second instar stage: This pest molts for the first time between June and July.
  • Third instar stage: The second molt also occurs between June and July, depending on environmental conditions.
  • Fourth instar stage: The pest develops its red patches between July and August.
  • Fifth instar stage: The pest becomes a full adult between July and November (and dies soon afterwards).

Before you use insecticidal treatments on these pests, let’s discuss their side effects and responsible application methods.

SLF Insecticides and Treatments

Want to spray insecticides to stop SLF?

There are three types of treatments you can use in fight against spotted lanternflies:

  1. Contact insecticides: These insecticides are sprayed onto the surface of plants and work soon after SLF insects make contact with them (like Permethrin SFR Insecticide 36.8%).
  2. Systemic insecticides: These insecticides are absorbed by plants and kill SLF once they ingest sap (like Imidacloprid 75 WSB or Zylam Liquid Insecticide). Keep in mind these can harm many non-SLF insects if applied incorrectly.

Don’t want to apply insecticides at all?

Try these tips on for size:

  • Use sticky tape to catch pests before they reproduce. You may want to install a cattle panel in front of each band to stop small birds and native pests from getting stuck on the tape.
  • Scrape lanternfly egg masses off plants with the help of a blunt-edged object (like a plastic shovel). Then, destroy the egg mass in rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer.
  • Knock down any Ailanthus altissima near your property. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, you first treat the tree fi heaven with herbicide, then wait 30 days before cutting it down. Active ingredients like glyphosate or triclopyr may work best.

Remember: you shouldn’t try killing SLF pests without carefully researching your product. It’s a good idea to identify SLF insects from other insects so you don’t injure natural enemies, kill non target insects, or attract bees and other insects that offer pollination benefits.

What To Do If You See a Spotted Lanternfly? (By State)

Spotted lanternflies have made their way into many different areas. Here’s what you should do if you catch a spotted lanternfly in one of the 14 affected states.

Maryland

Cecil and Harford Counties are working hard to quarantine spotted lanternflies. Residents should report lanternfly sightings to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Massachusetts

As part of their Introduced Pests Outreach Project, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture offers a convenient reporting system for lanternfly sightings. They urge residents to report sightings as soon as possible.

Michigan

The lanternfly was first identified in Michigan in 2014 and has seen a steady rise in both populations and related damage. You can join the See It, Squish It, Report It campaign to slow the spread of these pests.

New Jersey

Monmouth County is currently a spotted lanternfly quarantine zone. The Stomp it Out! program encourages residents to literally ‘stomp out’ spotted lanternflies at every opportunity. They also have a robust reporting system so you can notify officials of lanternfly sightings.

New York

The spotted lanternfly was spotted on Staten Island in August 2020. The Department of Environmental Conservation encourages citizens to frequently inspect outdoor items like firewood, furniture, and vehicles for spotted lanternfly egg masses. If you spot adults or egg masses, squish them and report them immediately.

Ohio

Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, and Muskingum counties have been fighting spotted lanternflies since October 28, 2021. You should report signs of infestation to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Please take a picture or collect a sample, then report your findings to ODA Plant Pest Control using the Ohio Plant Pest Reporter.

Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers several resources for the proper identification and elimination of spotted lanternflies. The Penn State Extension office also encourages you to report lanternfly sightings to 1-888-4BAD-FLY (1-888-422-3359).

West Virginia

Spotted lanternflies have extended to several new counties in 2023, including Hardy and Grant. Please report sightings of spotted lanternflies (and spotted lanternfly egg masses) to [email protected].

Connecticut

There’s a Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Order in effect until December 31, 2023. Until then, you can report any sightings through this comprehensive report.

Delaware

The Delaware Department of Agriculture requests citizens report spotted lanternfly sightings near Sussex County or Dover Air Force Base. You can also use this handy-dandy moving report to spot pests before accidentally transporting them to new areas.

Indiana

The SLF reached Indiana in 2021, and has since spread to multiple counties. To slow their invasion, you should contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at 866-NO EXOTIC (866-663-9684) or [email protected].

North Carolina

Kernersville, NC spotted the state’s first SLF in 2022. If you think you’d spotted another, be sure to take a picture and submit it through the NCDAC’s online reporting tool.

Rhode Island

If you’re a homeowner, you can take a picture of sample of a squished bug and report it to Rhode Island’s DEM. If you’re a business owner, you can follow these helpful resources for an added layer of protection.

Virginia

You should report spotted lanternfly sightings to your local extension office or to the state office at [email protected]. There are comprehensive resources and guides available on the Virginia Department of Agriculture website.

Understanding Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Zones

Spotted lanternfly quarantine zones are designed to prevent the movement of spotted lanternflies into unaffected areas. They also reduce the spread of their preferred host plant, the tree of heaven.

Some zones are also subject to regulated articles, including:

  • Landscaping laws
  • Remodeling requirements
  • Construction waste movements
  • Outdoor equipment rentals (such as outdoor recreation vehicles)

Click here to learn more about quarantine compliance and regulated articles in Pennsylvania.

If you want more information about your local quarantine zones, please visit your state’s Department of Agriculture.

Spotted Lanternfly FAQs

Have additional questions about spotted lanternflies? Below are some FAQs to help you make educated decisions about your next steps.

Do spotted lanternflies carry diseases?

Spotted lanternflies do not carry diseases. However, they can deposit a sugary substance called honeydew on plants, which attracts aphids and sooty mold. This makes them extremely dangerous to farm and forest health, which means getting them under quickly are in your best interests.

Why are spotted lanternflies dangerous?

The spotted lanternfly is a serious invasive pest that demands respect. While their preferred host plants are trees of heaven, they also have a healthy appetite for economically important plants such as hardwood trees, grapes vines and fruit trees.

The more sap a spotted lanternfly creates, the fewer resources trees have for plant photosynthesis. This can also lead to the growth of black sooty mold, which results in decreased health for the plant.

As an adult SLF feeds on plant sap, its excretes honeydew and deposits ‘collections’ around leaves. This can attract pest insects like aphids, which causes further damage to the already suffering plant.

What happens if a lantern fly bites you?

Fortunately, lanternflies adults do not bite. Unfortunately, they can lead to damage, disease, and potentially death in economically important plants. You should report feeding damage on plants or surrounding lanternfly activity to your local extension office immediately.

What do you do if you see a spotted lanternfly?

Squish it! Every spotted lanternfly you squish potentially creates 50 less bugs. Be sure to crush spotted lanternfly nymphs and scrape egg masses off trees before reporting their presence to your local authorities.

Can I touch a spotted lanternfly?

Spotted lanternflies don’t sting or bite, and they don’t carry diseases, so it’s possible to touch them with your bare hands. It’s better, however, to attempt to squish lanternfly adults with your shoes.

What do you do if you find a lanternfly?

If you see a spotted lanternfly, squish a spotted lanternfly. Female lanternflies can lay up to 50 eggs in one egg mass, which means the death of one SLF can prevent many more in the future.

Should I report seeing a spotted lanternfly?

It’s a good idea to report lanternfly sightings to your Department of Agriculture or extension office, especially in areas without prior reports. You can look up your local extension office with this handy tool.

What are the consequences of spotted lanternfly?

Spotted lanternflies cause expensive damage to orchards, farms, and vineyards. The more spotted lanternfly populations grow, the more damage they cause (and livelihoods they ruin).

Does killing lanternflies do anything?

Yep — even if it doesn’t feel like you’re doing much. Each and every lanternfly you kill is one less adult with the ability to lay eggs. Never think that killing lanternflies is a fruitless endeavor. According to the Penn State Extension office, every little bit helps.

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Author's Note: this piece has been updated for accuracy since its first publication on

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Author: Mark Marino
My name is Mark Marino, and I am the founder, owner, and operator of Lawn Phix. With a passion for lawn care and turf nutrition for over a decade, I've dedicated countless hours to correcting soil and perfecting lawns. Today, my expertise, backed by formal courses at UMass Extension Pesticide Education, allows me to offer top-tier lawn care services and advice. I am a fully licensed and insured lawn care applicator in Massachusetts, specializing in comprehensive turf nutrition, weed control, and lawn pest control. My license number is AL-0053865. Contact me at [email protected] or +1 (508) 500-8402.

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