Spotted Lanternfly is officially in Michigan. The first case has been confirmed in Oakland County, near Pontiac. We have time before it most likely reaches Grand Rapids, but not long. Here we will discuss all you need to know about Spotted Lanternfly. 

What is Spotted Lanternfly: 

Spotted Lanternfly is a planthopper. Typically, it can’t fly long distances. It originated in Asia and first came to the United States in 2014, in Pennsylvania. Its life cycle is important in knowing how to prevent and manage Spotted Lanternfly infestations. It’s important because it can be both environmentally and economically damaging.

Life Cycle:

Egg masses are present from September through June. The early nymph phase is from April to July, after hatching. Then the late nymph stage is from July through September. Adults are active from July through December and die off in the winter. You can find an image of these stages in the life cycle here.

Image obtained from Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Image obtained from Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Image obtained from Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Image obtained from Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

What damage does it do?: 

You can spot a Spotted Lanternfly infestation by a couple of signs. First the plants ooze and weep and produce a fermented odor. Second, honeydew builds up on and below the plants. Honeydew is a sticky fluid that attracts other insects. And the last sign is Sooty mold that can appear on the plants. This damage can cause increased levels of stress in the plant, making it more susceptible to other diseases and infestations, which could lead to death. You may also, sometimes, be able to find a gray or black trail along the trunk. 

What are the hosts and where can you find Spotted Lanternfly? How did it get here and how does it spread?: 

Its hosts are economically important plants such as poplars, sycamores, walnuts, willows, maples, oaks, and pines. Also including apples, almonds, apricots, cherries, hops, nectarines, peaches, plums, and grapes. Several of which are a huge part of Michigan’s economy. Its most preferred host is the Tree of Heaven. This tree is thought to be required for reproduction, but it still isn’t known. It feeds on the plant sap of these trees and plants. 

You can find Spotted Lanternfly in groups with other insects. Spotted Lanternfly can often be found on trunks and stems of plants around sunset and at night. There is still research going on about how these insects spread, but it is thought to have made its way to Michigan through infested nursery stock. We do know that since it doesn’t fly, it catches a ride on clothes, vehicles, etc. The egg masses can also catch a ride on these. 

Why it is important to report Spotted Lanternfly and Control it: 

Seeing that the hosts that Spotted Lanternfly feeds on are economically important, it is very important to report and control Spotted Lanternfly before it causes extreme damage to Michigan’s fruit and logging industries. This can cause damage to our economy. There isn’t data for Michigan yet, other states have data that shows economic damages of upwards of $300 million dollars. Environmentally, it can continue to cause damage to trees, therefore decreasing the amount of healthy trees we have in the state. 

What to do if you find it:

If you find signs of Spotted Lanternfly and don’t see an insect, contact a tree service company or an arborist to make sure that it is Spotted Lanternfly. If you see the insect or egg masses, report it below. This is very helpful and will only take a few minutes. Take a picture and note the location, date, and time before killing the Spotted Lanternfly or scraping the egg mass into hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol and squishing it. You should zip up the bag and throw it away. 

What to do to prevent it:

Some things that you can do to prevent Spotted Lanternfly is making sure to check your trees and plants, as well as items and surfaces at the end of the fall season. Here is a link to a checklist on where to look and what to look for!

Also, limit firewood travel, as always. If you have a Tree of Heaven on your property, have it removed to prevent attraction to your trees. To prevent, you can also limit trimming outside the dormancy season. When trimming during the dormancy season, you are reducing the stress on the trees the most, and therefore making it the least susceptible to other pests and diseases during that time. Trimming exposes the sap and seeing that Spotted Lanternfly feeds on the sap, this is crucial to prevention, as with most other diseases and pests. 

Image of Tree of Heaven obtained from Ohio State University

Some might think that spraying against the insect would be best, but that would be incorrect. You don’t want to spray unless you have a population present. If you spray without reaching the population threshold, you are going to kill off the majority of your natural predators in your environment. A DIY spray isn’t going to help either, as these mixtures aren’t actually authorized or tested by the FDA and EPA for safety and effectiveness. These are tested for safe mixing, and there are precautions for pollinators, humans, and the environment. 

What is the State of Michigan doing and what have other states done? 

So far, there is only one case in Michigan, so the state is still assessing. Other states haven’t found effective treatment plans yet, but they have made quarantine areas. These are areas where you can’t travel in or out of without marking off the checklist showing that you have looked over all items for signs of the insect or egg masses. These are in effect in states like Pennsylvania and Delaware. Businesses that travel through these areas are allowed permits. It is unknown if this will happen in areas in Michigan. Right now, the state is focused on prevention and early detection. 

One of the biggest ways you can prevent this is by removing the Tree of Heaven from your property. Please reach out to us for a quote on removal, as specific steps need to be taken. We can also help with trimming during the dormant season. Please reach out to us to get on our trimming list for a quote as we get closer.