Concern over it’s the current Spotted Lanternfly invasion has sent scientists scrambling to learn more about this insect to help combat it, and new research published in the journal Environmental Entomology is a major step in that direction. It contains new findings on its reproductive biology, host preference, and other life history elements that could help pest managers know when in its life cycle to target various control measures.
The insect’s name implies it is a fly (in the family Diptera), but it is really a planthopper (in the family Fulgoromorpha) and a colorful one at that, flashing a dazzling pattern of black, yellow and red as an adult, seen best when its wings are open. The invasive spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a little beauty, but it also is a beast of a problem: spreading from Pennsylvania, where it appeared on 2014, into nearby states, threatening crops such as almonds, apples, blueberries, cherries, peaches, grapes, and hops, as well as hardwoods such as oak, walnut, and poplar.
Not a problem in its native China because of predators and other natural controls, the spotted lanternfly is a serious pest where invasive. Typical of planthoppers, it chews into stems and branches of plants to suck out sap, causing wilting, leaf curling, and dieback. To make matters worse, like aphids, it excretes sugary honeydew that feeds the growth of black sooty mold, which discolors and weakens plants.
“If allowed to spread in the United States, this pest could seriously impact the country’s grape, orchard, and logging industries,” warns the United States Department of Agriculture.
Research published previously in the Journal of Economic Entomology indicates that the spotted lanternfly could become established in most of New England and the mid-Atlantic states as well as parts of the central U.S. and the Pacific Northwest.