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Spotted Lanternfly in Virginia

Spotted Lanternfly

Photo by Holly Raguza, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

SPOTTED LANTERNFLY IN VIRGINIA – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, STEVE CLARK – 88.9 WCVE producer Steve Clark and entomologist Dr. Art Evans note that arrival of another potentially serious insect pest.

SC: I’m Steve Clark with Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, and this is What’s Bugging You. You sent me a photograph last night, one of the most beautiful looking moths I’ve ever seen. (laughing) But it looked like it had four wings, and . . .

AE: That’s no moth, Steve. That’s the spotted lanternfly we’ve been hearing so much about in the news that was found in Virginia very recently.

SC: It’s a fly?

AE: I knew this would catch your ear. A lanternfly is not a fly.

SC: What is it?

AE: It is a plant-hopper, a relative of an aphid, cicada, scale insect.

SC: Where did it come from?

AE: Originally they are from Asia – China, Korea, Vietnam.

SC: Oh, the lanterns.

AE: Well, some people have suggested that. That, you know, they look like an ornate lantern with their markings. They first turned up in Pennsylvania in 2014, and as of late last year they were found in 13 counties in eastern Pennsylvania, and one county apiece in Delaware and the state of New York. As of January, it was discovered near Winchester.

SC: Are these a beneficial insect?

AE: No, (laughing) they have piercing sucking mouth parts, both as nymphs and adults. And they feed on the sap of many different kinds of trees and scrubs, and the nymphs as they’re developing aren’t particularly fussy. They will suck the sap out of just about everything they encounter. The adults are much more particular. Two of their favored host plants are another pest, the tree of heaven, which is . . .

SC: Ailanthus or something?

AE: Ailanthus, right, and that’s a tree that’s scattered all over, and the adults love feeding on that. And they also go after grapes, so that’s a concern. Both the adults and nymphs have been found feeding on a number of fruit trees, forest trees. They even go after pines sometimes.

SC: Did we know from the beginning they were bad news?

AE: Yes, because they are a pest in their native land. They can cause problems, and so there’s great concern about what they could do here. Because the tree of heaven is so widespread . . .

SC: Oh, yeah.

AE: . . . there’s no getting rid of them. It would take a tremendous effort and involve the application of lots of pesticides. The insects themselves are relatively slow moving. The adults fly. You see those beautiful wings. They’re really a very handsome animal.

SC: So we could put photos up and identify these.

AE: Oh, we’ll make sure there are plenty of links up so people can see what they look like, and also if they think they spot one to let the appropriate authorities know, because it’s very important to find out where they are. The eggs are laid on smooth, vertical surfaces like branches and tree trunks, but also slabs of stone. The initial infestation in Pennsylvania was discovered in a stone yard. The infestation that was discovered in Virginia was also in a stone yard that had transported materials from a site in Pennsylvania.

SC: You know it seems we can wipe out a bumblebee in about ten years with absolutely no effort.

AE: (laughing) That’s a sad fact. You know, anything that we have dubbed a pest and have gone after with all of our resources, it’s a mixed bag whether we can control them, and we have yet to eliminate them. But there are other insects out there which we have not targeted at all, and they are disappearing.

SC: Dr. Art Evans is the author of Beetles of Eastern North America. You’ll find photos, audio, and a link to Art’s Facebook page at

Download the pest circular (PDF).

Click here for additional information and links.

Photo: Spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae).