We have not yet seen the spotted lanternfly in Greene County; however, after a few years, they crossed over the mountains from the southeastern side of Pennsylvania. There were 14 counties under quarantine in the state until last year, but now these insects have been found in Allegheny and Beaver counties. Some neighboring states have also reported seeing it. These insects originally came from Asia. As of March, the state Department of Agriculture has expanded the quarantine to 26 counties. This means that businesses in these counties will be required to obtain a permit and receive training on spotting and killing these insects.
The spotted lanternfly does not sting or bite humans. It does not nest in our homes and does not kill trees. The damage it does is to our crops. The r of heaven is its favorite host; however, it also likes grapes, black walnut, silver/red maples, willows and small seedlings. They seem to feed on fruit trees for a short period then move on.
They weaken plants by feeding on sap. It then excretes a sticky honeydew substance on the plants that encourages the growth of black sooty mold. Other things can also cause that mold, so it is essential to identify the spotted lanternfly. The sticky discharge will also be anywhere the insect goes, and the substance coats anything it encounters. One Master Gardener in Berks County said they were so bad on her deck that they cannot enjoy sitting out without cleaning everything! Everything in the yard, car and toys were covered.
These insects are hoppers and fast. They initially look like a muddy mass, but this is actually their egg mass. They then grow into their nymph stage, initially black with white spots from April through June, then the spots turn red around July. The adults can be found from late July through December. A heavy frost will end that one-year life cycle.
Spotted lanternflies tend to seek height and jump if you try to touch them. They tend to congregate and will cluster near tree trunk unions. They lay their eggs on any surface under protection over winter, then hatch in spring. They actually do not fly. They hitchhike.
The quarantine is in place to try to keep it from spreading by traveling on vehicles going through areas with high volumes into surrounding areas. The Department of Agriculture does vehicle inspections and works in cooperation with state police.
There is a statewide initiative by the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners to confirm cases in Pennsylvania. Greene County Master Gardeners are participating and have followed the guidelines for creating two kinds of traps. One is a sticky band trap, and the other is a circular band trap. We must identify these insects and kill them. Using pesticides is not good, as although they may solve one problem, they will also kill off good pollinators who are already declining in number. If you are interested in seeing the traps, the Master Gardeners were given permission to locate them in Wana B. Park in Carmichaels, Center Twp. Community Park in Rogersville, Thistlewaite Winery, Yoskovich Funeral Home parking lot in Carmichaels, Ritchie Park in Waynesburg and Rices Landing River Trail. The traps will be monitored weekly.
If you would like to read more about the spotted lanternfly, you can find information at extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly, or contact the Department of Agriculture.