Synonym(s): spot clothing wax cicada, spotted wax cicada
Adult Description: Adult are fairly cryptic as long as their wings are folded. They have light brown forewings dotted with black spots, and the base color darkens along the tips of the wing. The hindwings are brightly colored, red with black spots, with a white band separating the red from the black tips of their hindwings. Females are slightly larger than males, with a body length of 20 to 27 mm vs. 17 to 22 mm (about 0.75-1.1 in.).
Larva Description: All four instars (nymphal growth stages) are mostly black with white spots, but the fourth and final instar also has red patches on the body.
Host Plant: The spotted lanternfly feeds on over 70 known host plants, with 25 identified in Pennsylvania. These include economically important plants, particularly common grape vine (Vitis vinifera), but ranging from apples, other grapes, birch, cherry, lilac, maple, poplar, stone fruits, and the non-native invasive tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which it appears to prefer. The spotted lanternfly is likely to establish itself where tree-of-heaven is present, as they co-occur in their native regions of Asia.
Ecological Threat: Nymphs and adults of the spotted lanternfly feed on the sap of a host plant through the phloem of young leaves and stems, potentially causing stunted growth and/or death. In addition, the spotted lanternfly excretes a sugary excrement known as honeydew. Honeydew can build up on leaf surfaces, promoting the growth of fungal sooty mold that blocks sunlight from reaching the insides of the leaf and thus limits photosynthesis.
The insect will also feed on fruit, causing damage.
Biology: The spotted lanternfly has long, tubular piercing-sucking mouthparts that are adapted to feeding from plant stems. It sucks on phloem sap.
During the fall, spotted lanternflies lay their eggs in multiple egg casings, each covered by a brownish gray waxy secretion, on surfaces like smooth bark or even buildings. Eggs casings are more commonly found at about chest height. Adults die after laying, and eggs hatch in the spring.
Early instars (nymphs) aggregate on the host plant to feed, preferring woody stems as they grow older and progressing onto tree trunks and branches as they develop into the fourth instar.
Adult Lycorma delicatula rely largely on camouflage and their wing coloration to defend against predators. When disturbed, the lanternfly flashes its wings open to reveal the bright, contrasting colors of the hindwings, to startle potential predators and warn them that it is chemically defended. Adults use cytotoxins as chemical defenses to deter predators. These are acquired through feeding from host plants, mainly the tree-of-heaven.
The spotted lanternfly has rarely been observed to fly over 11 ft. (3.3 m), but it will fly up into wind repeatedly to travel greater distances. In addition, it can hop 3.3-4.25 ft. (1-1.3 m) to escape predation.
History: First report of the pest in the U.S. was in 2014 in Pennsylvania.
Native Origin: China, India, and Vietnam
U.S. Present: DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WV (2020)
Distribution in Texas: Not found in Texas yet (2020)
Because of its large size and striking appearance, this species is not likely to be confused with others in the United States. From a distance, the first instar nymph may resemble a tick to the untrained eye, but unlike ticks, they can jump.
North American management efforts focus on early detection to prevent the spread of the spotted lanternfly to new locations. Eggs can be removed by hand by scraping egg masses off trees. Sticky traps can also be made by wrapping paper around the trees and coating them with adhesive. Because the lanternfly moves readily, the most effective insecticides are systemic (absorbed by the tree and affects the insect when they feed) or spraying the tree entirely. Lavender oil and linalool oil may also be helpful as repellents.
There are several Asian insects that are potential biological control agents of the spotted lanternfly, but research is still on-going. An assassin bug and a predatory stink bug, both native to North America, have been observed to prey on the spotted lantern bug.