Snap, smash, report: What to do about the invasive spotted lanternfly

a close-up image of a spotted lanternfly on a branch. facing right, the eyes are deep red and pointed upward in front of body-length wings of golden brown with black spots.
Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The spotted lanternfly, a new invasive insect native to China, is beginning to spread throughout Ohio and efforts are underway to stop it.

Spotted lanternflies, or SLF, have been reported in at least eight Ohio counties and identified in multiple green infrastructure sites we manage.

These insects feed on the sap of trees and en masse can be highly destructive. They eat grapes, apples, hops, walnuts, and hardwood trees such as maples, oaks, willows, pines, poplars, and sycamores. This could have a devastating impact on the grape, orchard, and logging industries.

SLF also secrete a sticky substance known as “honeydew” (insect poop), which can get quite messy for anything — or anyone — beneath them.

Lanternflies go through one lifecycle per year, from egg masses to several nymph stages and finally to adults. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture website, “In late summer and into fall, spotted lanternflies are in their adult stage. They are approximately one inch, with black bodies and colorful red and grey wings with black markings. They will lay eggs (small, grey masses covered by a waxy covering) beginning in October.” They can only fly short distances, so they tend to spread by leaving their eggs on vehicles, trains, pallets, etc.

If you are in an area with reported sightings, keep an eye on your vehicle to avoid spreading the infestation.

What to do if you see a spotted lanternfly:

  1. Snap it. Take a photo to help report your findings.
  2. Smash it. Yes, it’s important to smash or capture them to reduce the spread of this species. There are a variety of recommendations for traps and control.
  3. Report it. It’s important to report your finding to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Email your lanternfly pic and location to plantpest@agri.ohio.gov or report it using the Ohio Plant Pest Reporter online tool.

Keep an eye out, as we must all be vigilant to slow the spread of this new pest and protect our agriculture and forests.

Contributed by Sustainability Specialist Kevin Harrison

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Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Official Medium channel of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland, OH