Greener Gardening: Lanternflies
Jul 17

Greener Gardening: Lanternflies

By Tricia Bennett

Greener Gardening is a blog series designed to help you make your garden, lawn and landscape more beautiful and sustainable by sharing the expert knowledge of Phipps professionals and educators.

Interested in learning more about pest management with Spotted Lanternflies? Click the video below to learn more from our experts here at Phipps!

Nymph and adult spotted lanternflies are showing up in gardens and landscapes throughout Western Pennsylvania and they are probably not welcome visitors.

Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly was first spotted in eastern Pennsylvania in 2014 and is now found throughout the state. It is considered invasive because it has no known natural predators, spreads rapidly and has the potential to harm the state’s agriculture industries.

Phipps Integrated Pest Management Specialist Braley Burke says it’s important to remember that spotted lanternflies do not bite or sting people or pets and they tend to damage, but not kill, most plants. They will, however, kill saplings and grapevines. Adult spotted lanternflies are attracted to wild and cultivated grapevines, Virginia creeper and tree-of-heaven, a rapidly growing tree that is also native to Asia.

The pest’s food preferences include more than 70 plants and change throughout its life cycle.

“Spotted lanternfly nymphs love rose bushes,” Burke explains. “As adults, they tend to move on to deciduous trees.”

Spotted lanternflies go through four growth stages. When they emerge from the egg masses in the spring, they are small and look like spotted ticks, Burke said.  They turn red with white spots as they grow. Spotted lanternflies in the nymph stage can’t fly, but hop and move fast.

Adults are seen starting in July and they are active until they are killed by hard freezes in the fall.

As they feed on plant sap, spotted lanternflies at all stages excrete liquid waste called honeydew, which attracts ants, wasps and bees. Sooty mold also thrives in honeydew. Burke says the honeydew makes plants and other surfaces sticky.

Penn State Extension Green Industry Educator Sandy Feather said honeydew is likely to have the biggest impact on home gardeners. 

“Honeydew is a horrible, smelly mess,” she said, “and it’s hard to clean up.”

Gardeners might be tempted to reach for chemicals in an attempt to manage the nuisance pests, but experts urge not to do so.

Burke says organic pesticides are not helpful in managing spotted lanternflies because they don’t stay in the environment long enough to be effective. Horticulture oil and insecticide soaps might help, she says, but would require applications every few days throughout the growing season. They are also not effective on adult spotted lanternflies. Synthetic pesticides are also not a good option because they are expensive, toxic, stay in the environment for a long time and may harm other organisms.

Penn State Extension advises gardeners to even steer clear of home remedies to control spotted lanternflies as some mixtures might harm children, pets and even the plants themselves.

“Plants and dish soap are not a good combination, as soaps can remove some of a plant’s protective coating,” Burke says.

There are ways for gardeners to try to manage the spotted lanternfly. Start by doing all that you can to promote plant health because stressed plants are more likely to be affected by the spotted lanternfly.

“Spotted lanternfly might be that last nail in the coffin for a stressed tree,” Feather says.

Use plants that are appropriate for your yard. Choose native and sustainable plants that are resistant to disease and insects. Use proper planting, mulching, pruning and watering strategies to keep your plants healthy. See the Phipps Sustainable Landscape Principles for more ways to keep your plants healthy.

Over the winter and spring, you can smash, scrape and remove spotted lanternfly egg masses. Spotted lanternflies can lay eggs on any smooth outdoor surface. The egg masses, which are grayish-brown and mud-like, can be seen from the fall months through as late as June. Burke warns that the egg masses can be hard to spot and blend into many surfaces. Gardeners can scrape the egg masses off trees and other surfaces and destroy them by placing them in a container of rubbing alcohol. Smashing them works, too, Burke says.

Gardeners can remove spotted lanternflies at any growth stage from plants, trees and surfaces. Hand-picking frequently or using a shop vac with soapy water in it to drown the spotted lanternflies may help reduce the number in your garden, Burke says, but both methods require persistence. She adds that spotted lanternflies are very mobile, so others will quickly migrate back into any space that you clear.

“You can kill 10,000 of them, and the next day 10,000 more will come in,” Feather said. “You can’t keep new ones from coming in.”

There are spotted lanternfly traps that can be placed on the bases of trees and grapevines, but these must be built and placed properly to avoid catching other wildlife, Burke says.

Some experts recommend removing tree of heaven from landscapes as it attracts spotted lanternfly. “Removing it might keep it from acting as a beacon,” Burke says, but adds that doing so is difficult. Cutting down tree of heaven causes it to regenerate with aggressive roots and sprouts. Penn State Extension has tips for managing tree of heaven.

Everyone can help keep spotted lanternflies from spreading.

There are places outside Allegheny County that don’t have as many spotted lanternflies or don’t have any at all. Feather suggests checking anything that is stored outside before moving it. “Spotted lanternflies are very good hitchhikers,” says Feather. “Any outdoor surface is fair game.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has a checklist for travelers to ensure that they don’t unwittingly transport the pests.

“Don’t let the spotted lanternflies travel with you,” Burke says. “Take a minute to check your supplies and vehicle to make sure you’re not carrying them somewhere else.”

For more help with your landcare needs, contact a Phipps-accredited Sustainable Landcare Professional.


Is it true a hack is to use
Equal parts of pine Sol and water and 2 pack of sugar.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Thanks you

By Bill schmiedecke on Jul 17, 2023

Our neighbor recently cut down his tree of heaven, and there are thousands in our yard and garden.  Here are some of the things we’ve found effective thus far:

A simple flyswatter has been my best friend.  My kids and I can dispatch almost 200 in 15 minutes (works best for hard surfaces).

A highschooler recently won a national award for her very simple tinfoil-based lantern fly trap.  There is a short video on youtube (just search lantern fly trap).  We recently tried a modified version on our locust tree and it caught hundreds of flies in the 48 hours it’s been up. 

They are hard to catch when they are on soft plant material, especially without damaging the plants.  If you force them to jump onto the soil/grass, they are easier to stomp on; even better if you can force them onto a hard surface where a flyswatter is very effective.  You can also drape netting carefully over any infested plants to impede the fly’s ability to jump very far: Stomp them as they reach the ground, or clap your hands over them if they come to rest on the netting itself.  Mosquito netting traps them well, but even bird netting can work as the flies often get caught for long enough to squash them more easily than without it.  Working with a partner for these methods increases their effectiveness.

I’m interested to hear if anyone else has tips and tricks for dispatching the lantern fly.

By Sarah Ito on Jul 17, 2023

We have a few wide plastic bowls with the PineSol and sugar mixture but the directions and as you state don’t state the liquid quantities. Two packs of sugar in a quart may have a different effect in a gallon? Is a pack a teaspoon or tablespoon? We are catching a number in this liquid but we have so many nymphs that I am not sure that most aren’t just accidently falling or jumping in. They also have to be close to the consentration of insects as well. We had two locations that caught none within the same backyard until we relocated them so I am not sure that the sugary pine smell draws them to it from any distance.

By CRAIG MELICHAR on Jul 19, 2023

I noticed some lantern flies on your grape vines in the outdoor vegetable garden on July 30th

By Dennis McKeag on Jul 31, 2023

I have used water and Dawn dish soap and I killed the spotted lantern flies that were in my yard. I have not seen any in my backyard this month. The dawn soap kills them on contact. Just spray them and they die.

By Marsha on Aug 16, 2023

Thank you for sharing information about fireflies and their behavior. People must be aware of the potential effects this insect can have on plants, especially young trees and vines. house of hazards helps me know which plants they are attracted to which can help identify and manage infections effectively.

By Sade1938 on Sep 6, 2023