What to do? The Spotted Lanternfly is spreading fast and being very destructive. We are seeing increasing numbers of nymphs, adults and egg masses in our area.
Here are 10 Tips that we have gathered to deal with adult lanternflies for homeowners whose properties are about an acre, or who have less than 10 or 20 trees. This advice was gathered from professional sources (thank you, Penn State!), plus many very useful and practical tips from folks who have been living with this prolific and destructive bug for a couple of years now. We are very grateful to all the generous people who have shared their coping strategies!
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10 Tips to Fight the Spotted Lanternfly
The Spotted Lanternfly is from Asia and entered the US in 2012 in Berks County. They are spreading at an alarming rate. They will eat trees, grapes, hops, vegetable plants, flowers, and almost any plant in their path. Although they do not bite or sting, they swarm people, making it difficult to be outside in infested areas.
If you try any of these methods, PLEASE report back and let us know how it worked for you. We are only just beginning to figure out how to deal with this new bug, so all info is helpful. If you have another method that works, let us know!!!
1. Smushing the bugs is effective and the method that is least harmful to the environment.
If the flies are on a hard surface, fly swatters and wiffle ball bats work well. If you miss the first time, DON’T GIVE UP! Lanternflies jump well the first time, not as well the second time, and then they lose energy. If you follow the bug, you will get it on the second or third try!
For the techies out there, there are special electric tennis rackets made for this:
Zap-It, twin bug zappers – the first zap stops them from flying, then you can squash or zap again-Zappers – Rechargeable Mosquito, Fly Killer and Bug Zapper Racket – 4000 Volt – USB Charging, Super-Bright LED Light to Zap in the Dark, available on Amazon and at Aldi’s.
If the bug is on a soft surface like a leaf, put one hand under, one hand above, and clap your hands together hard and fast.
2. Keep a spray bottle of insecticidal soap handy to spray lanternflies on contact.
Penn State reports these soaps work: Concern Insect Killing Soap C, Ortho Elementals Insecticidal Soap, and Safer Insect-Killing-Soap.
People also report success using a spray bottle with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol and water. Some folks add dish soap. If you mist the bugs instead of using a stream, you are more likely to coat them before they jump away.
3. Capture them in a bottle.
Hold a bottle, like a plastic Gatorade bottle, in front of the bugs face. The bug will jump in!
4. Use a shop vac.
If you have the lanternflies on your house, a shop vac will suck them up. Use water and Dawn dish soap in the reservoir to kill them. If you don’t own a shop vac, you can buy a small bucket-sized one on Amazon or in many local stores.
5. Wrap your tree with sticky paper/duct tape.
If you have a tree with a bad infestation of lanternflies, wrap wide sticky paper or several strips of thinner sticky paper or inside-out duct tape around the bottom of the tree. Get out your hose or pressure washer and spray the bugs with water – or get out your leaf blower and spray the bugs with air – so they fall off of the tree. They will scramble to climb back up the tree, and they will get caught on the sticky paper. You may need to replace the sticky paper if it starts to fill up with lanternflies. Once most of the bugs have returned to the tree and been captured, remove the paper from your tree and burn it or fold it back on itself.
6. Judiciously-used sticky paper
Using the sticky paper or inside-out duct tape in 2” or less strips minimizes harm to wildlife. We posted instructions on our Facebook page on how to make a wire cage to protect wildlife from your tape.
Keep tape at least 4’ off the ground. Only use the tape around trees that the lanternflies are attracted to or around deck posts, if they like your deck.
Sticky paper can harm birds, wildlife, and beneficial insects, so please take precautions and monitor it carefully. Judiciously-used sticky paper has far less potential to harm wildlife than widespread use of pesticides.
If you find a bird or bat attached to sticky paper, wildlife rescue associations ask that you do not try to rescue the animal yourself, but bring it in to them. They will remove the animal and do the least harm. If you cannot get to a wildlife rescue association, olive oil and soap can remove the glue, but you do risk harming the animal.
7. Spray weeds with vinegar.
If the lanternflies are on weeds you don’t want around anyway (they love wild grape), spray with vinegar. They die instantly, and you might get rid of the weed, too.
8. Plant more milkweed!
It appears that the lanternflies are attracted to Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Because the USA is not their home, they don’t know it is poisonous, and they eat it and it kills them. The poisonous sap also slows them down, so they are much easier to catch and smush in your hand. Common milkweed can save the Monarch butterfly from extinction and help stop lanternflies.
9. Bug Assault
Bug Assault is a gun that shoots table salt at close range. It’s for mostly small insects like flies but it works great on lanternflies. Here is a link to one that works: https://amzn.to/2P2NUEV With older flies, the first shot may not kill them, but it will stun them, and then you can squish or step on.
10. BB guns with no BB’s!
To quote: just pump 4 to 5 times, get really close to them and pow, blown to smithereens!!
Destroying Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses
Spotted Lanternfly Eggs are grey or brown globby 2-4″ smears on trees, cement blocks, rocks, cars, houses, barbecue grills – any hard surface.
The good news is this is the easiest phase to get rid of – you can scrape them off using a plastic card, like a credit card, or a putty knife. Scrape them into a bag or container filled with isopropyl alcohol or hand sanitizer. This is the most effective way to kill the eggs, but they can also be smashed or burned. Remember that some eggs will be laid at the tops of trees and may not be possible to reach.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why shouldn’t I use Sevin?
Sevin is a non-specific pesticide that lasts for 7-10 days. It will kill beneficial insects that land on it. Our beneficial insects, like bees, butterflies and other pollinators, are struggling – they could be extinct from our area if we are not careful. Without beneficial insects, it will be impossible to grow fruits and most vegetables, and most of our trees, flowers and other plants won’t be able to reproduce. We need to be really smart in how we attack this infestation, or we will end up with a bigger problem. For homeowners with whose property is about an acre or less, there are less toxic options for treating the infestation.
What is Tree of Heaven, and why should I remove it?
There is a strong relationship between Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus) and the Spotted Lanternfly. It is unclear if the lanternflies actually need Tree of Heaven for survival.
Tree of Heaven is an invasive, noxious plant that produces ailanthone, a chemical which has been reported to possess herbicidal activity similar to glyphosate (Round-Up) and paraquat. It prevents native plants from growing around it.
Removing Tree of Heaven from your property is always a good idea. You may need a professional to do this. Breathing the fumes from a freshly cut tree can be toxic. It will vigorously resprout once cut, so the stump will need to be treated to prevent regrowth.
The PA Dept. of Agriculture is actively removing all female and most male ailanthus trees in certain areas in an attempt to stop the infestation from spreading, leaving some target male trees as lures for the lanternfly and then treating these lure trees with pesticide in an attempt to target Spotted Lanternfly while doing as little harm as possible to beneficial insects.
Tree of Heaven leaves are similar in appearance to walnut and sumac. Please see the illustration below. There are 2 distinguishing features: 1) although the edge of the leaflets is smooth, there is a notch/bump near the base of the leaflets, and 2) if you tear the leaf and smell it, it gives off a strong, noxious odor.
Should I buy praying mantis online to eat the lanternflies?
Sadly, it is almost impossible to buy our native mantis online, and our native mantis is almost gone from the wild. Most of the ones sold online are the Asian mantis, which is 2-3 times larger than our native one, and it is causing enormous problems itself. It is eating large numbers of beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies and other pollinators. These insects are already stressed, and if they become extinct from our area, we will not be able to grow many vegetables and fruits, and most of our trees, flowers, and other plants will not be able to reproduce.
Do any other native species kill lanternflies?
People are reporting seeing yellow jackets, spiders, and assassin bugs killing lanternflies.
My property is larger than an acre and I have many trees. What do I do?
Penn State has recommendations for dealing with lanternflies on their website: https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly. We suggest working with a professional to address the issue. Removing all female ailanthus trees and most male trees, while leaving a couple males as target lure trees, and then injecting these target trees with systemic pesticides is one of their suggestions. Our beneficial insects, like bees, butterflies and other pollinators, are struggling – they could be extinct from our area if we are not careful. Without beneficial insects, it will be impossible to grow fruits and most vegetables, and most of our trees, flowers and other plants won’t be able to reproduce. We need to be really smart in how we attack this infestation or we will end up with a bigger problem.
This post will continue to be updated as more information is gathered about the Spotted Lanternfly. Please share your own tips with us through our Facebook page.
Thanks to Penn State for the photos!