As spotted lanternflies hatch, here's how to fight them — and what not to do

Jim Melwert
April 25, 2019 - 12:13 pm
Spotted lanternfly

© Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture/Bugwood Org

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DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Spotted lanternflies will start hatching soon. A horticulture expert has some advice on what to do — and what not to do — to fight the pests.

Spotted lanternflies don’t bite people or pets, but since they have no known predator here in the US, they tend to swarm and can be a nuisance to home owners.

"We know insecticides work very well against spotted lanterfly, but we’re trying to make sure people are being as careful as they can with insecticides," said Emelie Swackhamer, with Penn State Extension in Montgomery County.

She says when a spotted lanterfly first hatches, it's tiny black bug with white spots.

"They move pretty quickly," she sayd. "They’ll run up and down the trunks, and you try to touch them, they’ll hop, they’ll jump away."

They tend to gather around new growth on tress, especially tree of heaven and walnut trees. Swackhamer says last spring they were also found on rose bushes.

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She recommends attacking clusters of them with what she describes as "softer" insecticides.

"Some of the options would be insecticidal soap from a garden center, or neem oil, which is an extract of a tree that you can buy at a garden center, or even pyrethrums, which is an extract of chrysanthemum flowers, that will kill spotted lanterfly," Swackhamer said.

But while spotted lanterflies don’t bite or harm people or pets, they gather in large numbers and are a nuisance.

She says avoid using home remedies that are making the rounds on social media, such as dish soap or alcohol, as those can harm the plants and aren’t always environmentally friendly.

Swackhamer does not recommend spraying an entire property.

"That just kills a lot of other unintended insects, beneficials, even spiders," she said. "It’s just not a good environmental practice."

There are tree companies and landscapers that can address trees coated with egg masses, which look like dried mud or old chewing gum them, but she recommends consumers do their homework and make sure the companies know what they’re doing.

She says most landscapers, tree companies, and pest control outlets are ethical, but she has seen some trying to make an extra buck. For example, she says it’s probably unnecessary to pay up front for multiple visits.

Swackhamer says they know spotted lanternflies are in Bucks, Berks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties. However, anyone who finds the pests in Philadelphia, New Jersey, or Delaware, is asked to report it online. She says if someone is reporting from another state, the report will be forwarded.