Spotted lanternfly nymph. Photo: E. Swackhamer, Penn State
Erica Myers, a Penn State Department of Entomology graduate student, observed the first 2017 sighting of a Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, nymph in Oley, PA (Berks County) on April 26, 2017. It is an invasive polyphagous insect that attacks over 70 woody plant species including: fruit trees, hard woods, grape, and especially, Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima. SLF was likely introduced to the state via international commerce from Asia. Erica is working with the viticulture industry to develop solutions for SLF control. Nymph emergence was observed on May 12 in 2015 and 2016. This year's early emergence is quite notable!
In Pennsylvania, SLF is univoltine and overwinters in egg masses attached to trees and many other natural and manmade outdoor materials. The egg masses are covered with a waxy substance that eventually takes on the appearance of splash of dried mud. Eggs hatch in spring and, after four nymphal instars, the adults emerge in late July. Females begin ovipositing in late September and continue until they are killed by winter temperatures sometime in December. The insect is a prodigious honeydew producer, a good substrate for the growth of sooty mold; therefore, the plants on which SLF feeds, as well as any materials underneath its hosts, become covered with sooty mold. Current research suggests that feeding on Tree of Heaven is a requirement for completing the SLF lifecycle.
SLF was first observed in Pennsylvania in 2014 in Berks County. After 2 years of surveillance, the insect's known distribution includes Berks, Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties in Pennsylvania. SLF has not been found anywhere else in the country. As a result of its presence in Pennsylvania, over 70 municipalities are under state quarantines for the movement of potentially infested materials. Individuals in the field, especially where Tree of Heaven is locally present, should be on the lookout for this year's emergence of SLF. If it is sighted outside the quarantine areas, it should be reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 1-866-253-7189 or Badbug@pa.gov.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Penn State Extension, and others, are establishing community awareness, homeowner surveillance, eradication, and control programs. More information on the state's response to SLF and the current quarantine map can be found at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Spotted Lanternfly site. Erica's early observation may give the scientific community an early start to learning more about this potentially devastating insect and facilitating the development of effective control practices.