This summer, several news agenciesreported of a spotted lanternfly infestation in Pittsburgh and the surrounding regions. Just an hour’s drive away from Pittsburgh, in Greene County, the constant buzz of SLF has yet to be heard in resident’s ears.
SLF are an invasive species native to China, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reports on their Spotted Lanternfly webpage. SLF currently don’t have a predator, so they’re able to spread into the current land.
Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Christian Hayes explained why SLF have a worrisome impact on Pennsylvania. “They suck out the phloem and xylem of the plant,” Hayes said. The PDA reports that SLF feed on the sap in plants important to Pennsylvania’s economy. “They’re in particular problematic for the fruit growers here in the state, Christmas tree operators… and plant nurseries.”
In 2019, a study done at Pennsylvania State University estimated that at the projected maximum damage statewide, SLF could cause a $99.1 million loss in damages to fruit growers, plant nurseries and Christmas tree growers. “That’s a worst-case scenario,” Hayes said.
Although SLF do not sting or bite, they do excrete “honeydew,” a sweet waste that can attract insects and promote mold and fungal growth, a webpage on SLF and beekeeping from Penn State Extension reports.
“Mold grows on that thing and blocks photosynthesis in plants, so they’re indirectly impacting crops as well as directly affecting them,” Hayes explained.
According to a detailed quarantine map on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, surrounding counties, which include Washington and Fayette, fall under their infested areas. Greene County is the only county not under quarantine in southwestern PA.
Jay Komoroski, a senior english professional writing major at waynesburg University spoke about their experiences living in the Baldwin borough near Pittsburgh. They first noticed SLF during summer 2022.
“They started to appear, and I was really mad about it. Like, I cannot even tell you when they appeared, all I know is that they’re there now and they’re never leaving,” Komoroski said.
They spoke more about their daily interactions with the insect, especially when going home.
“When I went home for the weekend, my parents were on their road trip for a week, so they were already gone for a week. I show up, there are dozens of lanternflies on my door, on my porch, like gates, all throughout my bushes. I killed like 20 of them,” Komoroski said. “They even fly into you; they don’t even try to go away; they want to come near you. One flew into my hair. I screamed– obviously.”
When traveling in or out of areas under quarantine, PDA recommends checking for SLF on outdoor surfaces such as camping gear, outdoor furniture and vehicles. A comprehensive checklist can be found at: https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/PlantIndustry/Entomology/spotted_lanternfly/quarantine/Documents/SLF_Checklist_for_Residents.pdf
To combat future infestations, PDA recommends the removal of another invasive species: the Tree-of-Heaven, another invasive species known to host SLF. Other known host trees are the black walnut, grapevines, maples, birch and willow trees.
As recommended by the Penn State Extension, immediate removal and destruction of the egg sacs can decrease the future population of SLF. To do so, they recommend spraying trees with an EPA-approved pesticide, waiting 30 days and then cutting the tree down. Further details about approved pesticides can be found at https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-management-and-pesticide-safety