This week, we bring news of a new pest in the arboricultural field that was confirmed in Pennsylvania in 2014 and has most recently been spotted in Winchester, Virginia as of 2018. So far, there’s no indication that it has made it to Richmond, but considering how close it is and how easily it can travel, we want to let you know that it is on our radar.
The spotted lanternfly is an invasive planthopper of the infraorder Fulgoroporpha: that is, it is not native to the area and “hops” for transportation. It is indigenous of Southeast Asia, namely Vietnam, India, and China. It has a wide host range but prefers the “Tree of Heaven” (Ailanthus altissima). It is believed to have arrived on shipping materials from China, potentially two years before initially detected. They can spread rapidly by laying eggs on smooth surfaces such as building materials, siding, and even the wheels of vehicles.
Spotted lanternflies are major nuisance pests, feeding on the sap of trees and leaving behind a honeydew excrement that leads to a byproduct known as “sooty mold” (which should be familiar to fans of cottony camelia scale, lecanium scale, aphids, and a variety of other pests). Sooty mold can cover leaf material and inhibit photosynthesis, which causes a cascading number of plant health issues that can lead to decline. Infestations of spotted lanternfly can get so bad that it looks like it is literally raining honeydew.
Quarantine efforts are in place in two counties in Virginia as of this week.
Below are two videos to give you a better idea of what we’re potentially in for. These pests are treatable and Arborscapes has plans in place to handle them. It’s important if you spot one for any reason that you report it to your local extension office and let us know as soon as possible so we can take care of it.