A harmful and invasive pest that first surfaced a few years ago in Pennsylvania was recently discovered in Virginia. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the spotted lanternfly was detected in Frederick County last month.
The spotted lanternfly is a “phloem feeder,” meaning it sucks sap from plant stems and leaves. The pest can damage a wide variety of trees and ornamental plants as well as crop species like grapes, peaches and hops.
“It is highly invasive and can spread rapidly when introduced to new areas,” an extension publication says. “This is attributed to its wide host range (more than 70 plant species) and a lack of natural native enemies.”
The spotted lanternfly is native to China, and its first U.S. detection came in 2014 in Pennsylvania at a business that imports stone. A Feb. 8 Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) press release says the Frederick County detection took place at a stone yard that brought in products from that Pennsylvania business. According to the report, VDACS inspectors have been monitoring the Frederick County site since 2015 and made the recent lanternfly discovery on Ailanthus (tree of heaven) trees.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture offers information on identifying the spotted lanternfly and its signs:
“The Spotted Lanternfly adult is approximately 1″ long and 1/2″ wide at rest. The forewing is grey with black spots, and the wing tips are reticulated black blocks outlined in grey. The hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band… Trees, such as tree of heaven and willow, will develop weeping wounds. These wounds will leave a grayish or black trail along the trunk… Newly laid egg masses have a grey mud-like covering which can take on a dry cracked appearance over time. Old egg masses appear as rows of 30-50 brownish seed-like deposits in 4-7 columns along the trunk.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture recommends scraping off these egg masses, double-bagging them and throwing them away. Virginia residents who find suspected spotted lanternflies can take samples to the nearest Virginia Cooperative Extension office for identification and advice, or they can upload pictures at the following link: https://ask.extension.org/groups/1981/ask.