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The spotted lanternfly was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has moved to southern New England, Ohio, and Indiana. It is as big as a butterfly but with a moth-like appearance. Adult lanternflies at rest are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and 1/2 inch wide. They have tan, semi-transparent forewings with red and black spots, a white band, and a yellow and black abdomen. Although this flying insect may look pretty, don’t be fooled. In fact, this bug infests, infects, and kills trees and plants.

How Did the Spotted Lanternfly Get to Indiana?

The spotted lanternfly is indigenous to China, India, and Vietnam. It likely made its trek to the United States in a stone shipment in 2012. This insect was first seen in Pennsylvania in 2014 on a Tree of Heaven (an invasive tree native to China.)

As of July 2021, the lanternfly had spread to about half of Pennsylvania, some of New York, and most of New Jersey. Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia have also seen infestations, and unfortunately, we’ve also seen them here in Indiana. Spotted lanternflies reproduce quickly. They spread across South Korea (about the size of Pennsylvania) in only three short years.

In a mere seven years, the spotted lanternfly has infested enormous mid-Atlantic areas and has invaded Connecticut.

How Are Lanternflies Spreading So Quickly?                       

Spotted lanternflies lay eggs on the trunks of trees and any smooth object that sits outdoors in late summer and fall. You can often find the egg masses, which resemble dry smears of mud, on the smooth surfaces of cars, trucks, and trains. Humans then inadvertently transport the critters to any part of the city, state, or country in just a matter of days. Once the eggs hatch, they crawl to nearby host plants to start a new infestation.

What Do They Feed On?

Lanternflies eat by piercing tree bark and vines to tap into the plant’s vascular system to feed on sap. For a sucking insect, the spotted lanternfly is relatively large. They remove vast amounts of sap and excrete ample amounts of clear, sticky substance (“honeydew”) that can coat the tree and everything beneath it.

Wherever the sticky substance settles, a black sooty mold grows. Sooty mold is an unsightly fungal disease that isn’t harmful if it grows on or under the tree’s bark. But feeding lanternflies puts a serious strain on trees and vines, which lose carbohydrates and other nutrients for root storage and eventual new growth. Also, infested trees and vines grow more slowly.

How Are Scientists Stopping Them?

Biological control shows promise for the future. Researchers have identified two naturally occurring fungal pathogens of spotted lanternflies in the United States. Also, labs are testing two parasitoid insects — insects that grow by feeding on lanternflies, killing them in the process. These were brought from China for testing and possible future release.

Should Indiana Residents Be Concerned About the Spotted Lanternfly?

Indiana residents should be very concerned about this invasive species. Lanternflies reproduce quickly in high numbers, and you can find host trees and plants across our entire state, including in your own backyard.

In September, adult lanternflies gather on plants and structures to lay their eggs. Their sudden mass appearance can be alarming. Similarly,  the periodic cicada population shocks people when they emerge from the ground. But lanternflies are more disturbing because the few predators that might feed on them, like wheel bugs and stink bugs, don’t seem to control infestations.

What Should I Do if I See a Spotted Lanternfly?

If the area you live in is already infested and you find spotted lanternflies on your property, contact Bug Out Pest Control at 317-777-5005 today to arrange for insect extermination services. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Eventually, spotted lanternflies will spread to many parts of the country. We can slow the spread by detecting and eliminating new infestations wherever they appear.

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