Spotted Lanternfly

The dreaded spotted lanternfly hasn’t hit Maryland yet, but it’s likely only a matter of time.

Why should you care?

This guy is bad news.

Sure, it looks pretty enough, with its attractive speckled vibrant wings.

But once this destructive insect arrives, it’ll start devouring crops, from orchards and vineyards full of fruit to valuable hardwood trees. Spotted lanternfly damage will be extensive, if the destruction in Pennsylvania is any indication.

And its favorite host tree, tree of heaven, might be on your property.

Joey Schneider, a branch manager at Level Green Landscaping, has been researching the unpleasant pest.

Here are seven things he’d like you to know:

1. Education Is Crucial

“We want our clients to be aware of this pest so they can be on the lookout,” Schneider says.

The speckled, four-winged insect is native to China, Vietnam and parts of India.

It first appeared in the United States about three years ago, when a shipment of stone from Asia arrived in Pennsylvania with lanternfly eggs attached.

“It’s in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia — all the states surrounding us,” Schneider says. “We buy a fair amount of Pennsylvania fieldstone, so we’re careful checking each piece for eggs.”

2. You Might Have Its Favorite Tree

Tree of HeavenDo you have the main spotted lanternfly host on your property?

You might.

It feeds on a wide range of fruit, ornamental and woody trees, but tree of heaven is its preferred host.

“This tree is very common in Maryland,” Schneider says. “You see it all over the place.”

Considered an invasive tree, it reseeds and spreads easily, Schneider says. You might have several of these trees, nestled at the back of your property in a wooded area.

If you do, they have to go.

Level Green will be checking client properties for tree of heaven and recommending removal.

3. This Fly Spreads Aggressively

Spotted lanternflies are invasive and can be spread long distances by people who move infested material or items containing egg masses. If allowed to spread in the United States, this pest could seriously impact the country’s grape, orchard and logging industries. 

“It could devastate an entire crop,” Schneider says.

It also latches onto a wide variety of hard surfaces, allowing it to travel, undetected, aboard cars, trucks and trains.

“Most insects don’t lay eggs on natural surfaces,” Schneider says. “But this one does.”

4. Nobody Likes It

Part of the problem is the spotted lanternfly doesn’t seem to have any natural enemies. Birds don't like to eat them, and researchers haven’t found predatory or parasitic insects that are making a great impact on the population yet.

5. What To Look For?

  • Plants that ooze or weep and have a fermented odor
  • Buildup of sticky fluid called honeydew on plants and on the ground underneath infested plants
  • Sooty mold on infested plants

6. What can you do?

  • Inspect your trees and plants for signs of this pest, particularly at dusk and at night when the insects tend to gather in large groups on the trunks or stems of plants.
  • Inspect trees (especially tree of heaven), bricks, stone, and other smooth surfaces for egg masses, including your vehicles.
  • If you find an insect that you suspect is the spotted lanternfly, or a gray mass that you suspect is its eggs, contact your local extension office to have the specimen identified properly. “You can call us, too,” Schneider says.

7. What We’re Doing

  • Level Green crews have been educated about the spotted lanternfly and its unique egg sac, which looks like a gray smear of mud, Schneider says. Photos of both the fly and its eggs are posted so everybody knows what they look like.
  • “The Maryland Extension Service puts out a weekly newsletter that we follow, so we know about any new developments,” he says.  “We’re aware of any news as soon as it comes in.”
  • We’re checking client properties for tree of heaven and recommending removal.
  • If spotted lanternflies are found feeding in mass, Schneider says, the tree can be treated with a systemic insecticide. Trials are being conducted now to determine which variety works best.

Level Green Landscaping: Prepared For The Spotted Lanternfly

Level Green Landscaping TruckThe best defense is education, Schneider says.

Here at Level Green Landscaping, we hope we never see this destructive pest. But if we do, we‘ll be prepared.

We’ll do our best to keep your property safe, too.  

If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers.

Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.

Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.

We’d love to hear from you.

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Image Sources: Spotted Lanterfly, Tree of Heaven