Be Aware of Spotted Lanternfly
A news report from WCTI News Channel 12 today announced that some Christmas trees were sold in Onslow County that came from Pennsylvania.
Why is this of concern to us? Pennsylvania and in this case the tree farm are in an area quarantined because of Spotted Lanternfly, a non-native invasive species of insect that feeds on several different types of trees. One of its favorites is Tree of Heaven, another non-native invasive species that has become established in our area. It would be good if that was the only tree it fed on, but it’s not. The spotted lanternfly also feeds on grapevines, maple trees, birch, willow, and 70 species of plants in all.
When the spotted lanternfly feeds it pierces the plant with its proboscis (similar to an aphid or mosquito) and feeds on the sap of the plant. One insect wouldn’t be a big deal, but these tend to congregate in large numbers and feed heavily. As they feed, they excrete a clear liquid called honeydew, because of its sweetness. A black mold called sooty mold likes to grow on the honeydew, which creates a black film on whatever it’s growing on. If it’s growing on a plant then the black film stops sunlight from getting to the leave causing the plant to not grow as well.
If you see or think you see a spotted lanternfly collect a specimen if possible, take a picture (always include something of known size such as a penny for size reference), write down information such as location and date of the find, and submit the picture and information to email@example.com. They will help you identify the insect to be sure it is or isn’t the spotted lanternfly.
For more information about this insect including some pictures of the different stages (including the egg masses) visit the Spotted Lanternfly Pest Watch page of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.