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Spotted Lanternfly

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Spotted lanternfly
Spotted lanternfly, Photo: Lawrence Barringer,
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

Spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive pest from Asia that primarily feeds on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) but can also feed on a wide variety of plants such as grapevine, hops, maple, walnut, fruit trees and others. This insect could impact New York's forests as well as the agricultural and tourism industries.

In the US, SLF was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has since been found in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and New York.

The first New York State infestation was discovered in Staten Island in August 2020 (leaves DEC website). Visit Cornell's Integrated Pest Management site for an up-to-date map of current infestation locations in the Northeast, including New York (leaves DEC website).

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Two different colored spotted lanternfly nymphs on a tree
Late nymph (left) and early nymph (right)
Spotted lanternfly with wings closed
SLF with closed wings,
Photo: Lawrence Barringer,
Pennsylvania Department of

Nymphs are black with white spots and turn red before transitioning into adults. The black nymphs can be seen as early as April and until July. Red nymphs can be seen from July until September.

Adults begin to appear in July and are approximately 1 inch long and ½ inch wide at rest, with eye-catching wings. Their forewings are grayish with black spots. The lower portions of their hindwings are red with black spots and the upper portions are dark with a white stripe.

In the fall, adults lay 1-inch-long egg masses on nearly anything from tree trunks and rocks to vehicles and firewood. They are smooth and brownish-gray with a shiny, waxy coating when first laid.

Risk to the State of New York

SLF pose a significant threat to New York's agricultural and forest health. Adults and nymphs use their sucking mouthparts to feed on the sap of more than 70 plant species. This feeding by sometimes thousands of SLF stresses plants, making them vulnerable to disease and attacks from other insects. SLF also excrete large amounts of sticky "honeydew," which attracts sooty molds that interfere with plant photosynthesis, negatively affecting the growth and fruit yield of plants. New York's annual yield of apples and grapes has a combined value of $358.4 million, which could be greatly impacted by SLF. The full extent of economic damage this insect could cause is unknown at this time.

Although native insects also secrete honeydew, the size of SLF and the large populations that congregate in an area result in large accumulations of it. The sticky mess and the swarms of insects it attracts can significantly hinder outdoor activities. In Pennsylvania, where SLF populations are the densest, people can't be outside without getting honeydew on their hair, clothes, and other belongings.

How SLF Spreads

SLF can jump and fly short distances, they spread primarily through human activity. They lay their eggs on vehicles, firewood, outdoor furniture, stone, etc. which are inadvertently transported to new areas, causing the insect to spread.

Signs of an Infestation

  • Oozing wounds caused by spotted lanternfly
    Oozing wounds and adult SLF on a tree
    Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,
    Sap oozing or weeping from tiny open wounds on tree trunks, which appears wet and may give off fermented odors.
  • One-inch-long egg masses that are brownish-gray, waxy and mud-like when new. Old egg masses are brown and scaly.
  • Massive honeydew build-up under plants, sometimes with black sooty mold.

Current Control Efforts in New York

DEC is working with the Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address SLF. Since it is less expensive and easier to deal with a pest before it becomes widespread, the goal is to find and treat SLF infestations early.

A plan has been developed that describes how the agencies will detect and prevent further spread of SLF in New York. Extensive trapping surveys are being conducted in high-risk areas throughout the state as well as inspections of nursery stock, stone shipments, commercial transports, etc. DEC and partner organizations encourage everyone to be on the lookout for this pest.

Exterior Quarantine

To slow the spread of SLF, AGM issued a quarantine that restricts the movement of goods brought into New York from quarantined areas in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The quarantine requires regulated articles, such as packing materials, landscaping and construction equipment, and nursery stock to have certificates of inspection issued from the impacted states. Inspections are being conducted across New York by AGM and its partners to check for SLF and compliance with the regulations. For more information and for a list of regulated articles, see AGM's website (leaves DEC website).

Protective Zones

In an effort to detect SLF early and respond in a timely manner, DEC has established a Protective Zone encompassing 20 counties located near the PA and NJ infestations. Protective Zones allow DEC and its partners to conduct activities such as surveying, monitoring, and management to find and prevent the spread of SLF. Protective Zones are established in the following counties: Bronx, Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Kings, Nassau, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Tioga, Ulster and Westchester.

How You Can Help

  • Learn how to identify SLF.
  • Inspect outdoor items such as firewood, vehicles, and furniture for egg masses.
  • If you visit states with SLF, be sure to check all equipment and gear before leaving. Scrape off any egg masses. Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture webpage (leaves DEC website) for more information on SLF in PA.
Spotted lanternfly egg masses on a tree
SLF egg masses on a tree, Photo: Kenneth R.

If you believe you've found spotted lanternfly in New York: