The invasive spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) has been found on Cleveland’s east side. This discovery matters greatly to Northeast Ohioans. Here are the details we have thus far:
Spotted lanternfly adults were found at 64th and Euclid Ave. and near 79th & Woodland Ave on August 26th, 2021. The discovery was confirmed on September 2nd by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Why we care
Spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest that is very harmful to trees (more on this below). The fact that these individuals were found means that there are likely others in our neighborhood. Holden Forests & Gardens is highly invested in Cleveland; our own Cleveland Botanical Garden is just miles away from these two sites.
What you should know
This is a plant-hopping insect with wings, approximately an inch long, and with a wingspan of 2 inches as a fully-grown adult. Adults can be observed most readily in the late summer and fall. Grey frontal wings with black spots and bright red hind wings (only visible when wings are open) with black spots are the most identifiable features. The young, immature insects—or nymphs—look different, with black with white spots, developing red patches as they grow. Nymphs are usually seen in late spring and summer.
Egg masses are laid in late fall on any surface including trees, buildings, and outdoor furniture. They are greyish and covered in a waxy, mud like covering which gets a cracked appearance over time. Old egg masses appear as rows of 30-50 brownish, seed-like deposits in columns.
Where are they from?
These insects are native to China, India, and Vietnam. They were introduced to the USA—likely accidentally through plant product imports—in 2014. This 2021 incident is the first confirmed sighting in Northeast Ohio, with one previous sighting in the Youngstown area. They have no significant predators in the USA and tend to overpopulate where they spread and get established.
Are they a threat here?
Absolutely. Spotted lanternflies do not bite or sting, but they do feed on over 70 different plants, including commercially significant crops such as apples, grapevines, hops, and hardwood trees—including the oaks, walnuts, or flowering apple varieties you may have on your property. When they become established and infest a given area, the damage (and sometimes even death) they cause these host trees and plants can have a large negative impact on agriculture, wine, and the timber industry.
How do they hurt trees?
Spotted lanternflies cause significant damage to trees and other plants in areas where they are numerous. The adults feed on sap and secrete a large amount of sugary residue—called honeydew—which in turn encourages sooty mold growth. This mold is not directly harmful to humans but damages plants: Leaf areas where sooty mold grows prevents the plant from photosynthesizing.
Will Spotted Lanternfly kill trees?
The extensive feeding of spotted lanternflies causes weeping trunk wounds, wilting, health decline and dieback on trees. Death from feeding has been observed in mature grapevines, sumac, and tree-of-heaven, as well as killing sapling trees. Beyond this, there is much to learn; research is ongoing to understand the true impacts and mortality possible from spotted lanternfly.
Is there a way to control Spotted Lanternfly or protect trees?
In general, when a new potentially dangerous pest is found, the three goals are to 1.) detect, 2.) control, and 3.) eradicate. The Ohio Department of Agriculture will be commencing eradication efforts in the zones where the insects were found and seeking out additional potential individuals or populations in the area. Methods of control include removing the preferred host tree of spotted lanternfly (the invasive tree of heaven), and leaving ‘trap trees’, which are trees baited with insecticides. Since this is the first confirmed sighting of spotted lanternfly in Northeast Ohio, professionals and residents should be on the lookout and report any further sightings (more on reporting below).
What can I do?
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with what to look for by using the images and descriptions here and on ODA’s website. Keep in mind that as fall progresses, adults congregate on trees such as tree-of-heaven, willow, and others and note that spotted lanternfly tends to spread into a new area via transportation routes as they “hitchhike” on trains and rail lines. Late summer/early fall is the easiest time to spot the adult lanternfly, so please, keep an eye out, and report any signs of these pests! At this early stage of potential infestation, residents can do a lot to help by detecting and reporting! If you suspect a spotted lanternfly infestation, at any life stage, please report the finding to the ODA Plant Pest Control (614-728-6400, email@example.com). If you have photos of eggs, adults, or nymphs, even better! Send them to the email above or attach them to the form here: https://arcg.is/0aTbCL
If you think you see an adult Spotted Lanternfly
If you come across a spotted lanternfly, please try to catch it (remember, they don’t bite or sting), place it in a sealed bag, and freeze the specimen. Contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) by filling out a form at https://arcg.is/0aTbCL and mail it to the address provided on the form.
If you can’t catch the spotted lanternfly, take a photograph and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even if you haven’t taken a photo, please still call (614-728-6400) and leave a message detailing your sighting and contact information.
If you think you see Spotted Lanternfly eggs
Again, the most important thing is to report suspected eggs to email@example.com. If you can, please destroy the eggs by scraping them off the surface where they are laid, double bag them (with alcohol or hand sanitizer if you have any on hand) and throw it away—eggs that have been merely scraped off and left will still hatch, so smashing or throwing away the eggs is necessary. If you are unable to do any of this, snap a photo if you can and then smash the eggs as best as possible.
Keep alert, Ohio!
Spotted lanternfly has the potential to become an extremely destructive pest in Northeast Ohio if left unchecked and could wreak havoc on many of our beloved plants and trees and the industries that depend on them. Help the effort to detect, contain, and eradicate by staying informed and alert for this pest. Thank you!
Ohio Department of Agriculture Pest Alert
References and More Information
- ODA’s Spotted Lanternfly Landing Page: https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/divisions/plant-health/invasive-pests/slf
- PennState Extension: https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly
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