Have you heard of the spotted lantern fly? It is an invasive planthopper that is being federally tracked in the US. The instars have little polk-a-dots and the adults have spotted brow upper wings with vibrant red and black bottom wing. It really is a pretty cool looking insect, just also can be pretty damaging. The spotted lantern fly (Lycorma delicatula) is serious pest that poses risks and harm to trees and other plants, it is a threat to our local food systems. It specifically is a concern to orchards, vineyards, and beekeepers. So, if anything is going to pose a risk to our apple pies and dumplings, honey, and our wine you better bet your bottom dollar that we are going to notice.
They feed on the sap from stem or leaves on plants with their piercing and sucking mouth parts, this feeding weakens the overall plant. Heavily infected plants may not survive winter months. It can be devastating to orchards and vineyards. The honeydew they produce covers the ground and attracts ants, wasps, and will eventually grow mold. There are over 70 species known to be susceptible but to name a few: black walnuts, hops, grapes, roses, tree of heaven (also invasive), red maple, river birch, and fruit trees.
I mentioned a risk to our honey as well. Beekeeping equipment can be a perfect spot for SLF egg laying and egg masses. Honeydew honey can also be affected. The SLF honeydew can give honey a smoky taste and smell, it also can be less sweet with a darker color.
It is native to China and parts of India, Vietnam, Japan, and Taiwan. It was first detected in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014. It was found in Switzerland County, Indiana in 2021 and was found in Huntington, IN. Both these cases seem to be accidental spreads but it is important to learn about what they look like so if they are in the area we can report them and control them.
The egg masses of the Spotted Lantern Fly look like mud splotches. They can be on packages, shipping material, lumber, outdoor furniture or in wheel well of vehicles and on recreational vehicles. The egg mass is the most important time to identify but also the hardest. Part of what makes the SLF invasive, is because of how easy and sneakily they can spread.
If you see this pretty fly, suspected finds should be reported to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Call 866-NO EXOTIC (866-663-9684) or email DEPP@dnr.IN.gov. Please leave your name, contact number and detailed information about what you are reporting. Photos are always appreciated. By notifying us of a potential pest problem you provide an invaluable service to the DNR and our natural resources.
Tricia Herr is the Montgomery County Extension Educator, Ag and Natural Resource. The office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.