Hannah Fraser, Wendy McFadden-Smith, Cassie Russell, Denise Beaton, OMAFRA
Spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycorma delicatula, is an invasive sap-feeding planthopper native to Asia. First identified in Pennsylvania in 2014, it has spread to at least 14 states. While live specimens have not been found in Canada, active populations have been found right across the border in Buffalo, NY and in Pontiac, MI.
Spotted lanternfly is an excellent hitchhiker.
Long distance spread to new areas is typically associated with people inadvertently moving overwintering egg masses. Females lay eggs indiscriminately on just about any flat surface – vehicles, transport containers, nursery pots, campers, lumber. The egg masses are up to 2 cm long (similar in size to those of spongy moth) and covered by a grey, waxy coating that has a putty-like appearance. Over time, the waxy surface becomes dull, making egg masses difficult to detect on some surfaces.
Spotted lanternfly females and egg masses on a vineyard post (PC: Heather Leach, Michigan State University)
Life cycle of Spotted lanternfly
Adults are large (2.5 cm in length) and brightly coloured. Early instar nymphs are black with white spots, while fourth instars are bright red with white and black spots. Nymphs are excellent jumpers. Although adults are not considered strong flyers, they are capable of repeated bouts of flight, resulting in natural spread of several kilometers per year. There is one generation per year.
SLF has one generation per year in Pennsylvania (PC: Colleen Witkowski, Penn State University)
Impacts on plants
Spotted lanternfly is a plant stressor. Large numbers can weaken or kill plants. Aggregations (or swarms) of nymphs and adults damage plants directly by feeding on plant sap, and indirectly by excreting large amounts of sugary honeydew that promotes the development of sooty mold and interferes with photosynthesis. There are over 70 documented hosts in North America, including grapevines, fruit trees, and hardwoods like black walnut, maple, and one of its preferred hosts, the invasive tree of heaven.
To date, reports of economic injury in the US have been confined to commercial vineyards, where swarm feeding has resulted in yield loss, decreased sugar content in harvested grapes, and weakening and death of vines. There is ongoing research on the impacts to tree health in black walnut and maple, both of which commonly attacked by late instar nymphs and adults in the fall. Significant economic impacts have also been seen in the nursery sector due to implementation of additional regulatory controls and increased use of crop protection products. There have been some dramatic images of SLF swarms on apple and reports of SLF on stone fruit trees but so far, no economic impact has been reported and activity on tree fruit seems to be limited to brief periods in the fall, possibly as the pest searches out more preferred hosts.
Monitoring and outreach
OMAFRA has been monitoring for Spotted lanternfly since 2016 and more intensively since 2021. We are using BugBarrier Tree Bands® which consist of an 6” wide band of tape wrapped, adhesive side in, over batting wrapped around trees located in areas frequented by travellers from the states, as well as shipping and railway yards. An infotag, with images of Spotted lanternfly growth stages and a QR code for more information and reporting, is affixed on the trap to engage the public.
In addition, digital signs about spotted lanternfly are being displayed in ONRoute rest stops along the 401. Funding for the digital signs was provided by Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc through OMAFRA’s Marketing Vineyard Improvement Program, Landscape Ontario and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.
What can I do?
If you are interested in finding out more about SLF, the Invasive Species Centre has developed an online course to provide training on the identification, biology, impacts, pathways for spread, and reporting https://invasivespeciestraining.ca/courses/spotted-lanternfly-training/ (funded through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriRisk Initiatives Program). This free, self-guided online course can be used to obtain continuing education credits from the Ontario Certified Crop Advisor Association.
If you are travelling through infested areas or bringing in supplies from affected regions in the US, be mindful you’re not inadvertently moving eggs or other life stages. Early detection is crucial for effective response and in limiting or slowing the spread. If you think you have found spotted lanternfly, take pictures and report any suspected finds immediately to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency https://inspection.canada.ca/about-cfia/contact-us/contact-cfia-online/eng/1299860523723/1299860643049