How to Kill Spotted Lanternfly Insects

Spotted lanternfly bugs have become an increasing concern for homeowners in recent years, but the 2022 breeding season is preparing to turn this invasive species into a national crisis. If you live on the east coast of the United States or in up-and-coming areas of the Midwest, chances are you’ll see the spotted lanternfly’s brilliantly glowing wings in your garden or yard this fall.

As we near the start of the holiday season, the average spotted lanternfly works to create a breeding ground for thousands of new bugs to emerge later in the year – and everything from crops to potted plants to established garden beds can host them.

According to materials released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in late September and October, spotted lanternflies will create these breeding grounds fairly stealthily—all while feeding on plants in and around your home. “Populations of spotted lanternflies can increase rapidly, and it’s not uncommon for an area to become overwhelmed in a seemingly short amount of time,” he explains David Coyle, Ph.D.Assistant Professor of Forest Health and Invasive Species at Clemson University and Specialist in the South Carolina State Extension.

“Plants or other things beneath the spotted lanternfly’s foraging areas often become coated in a sticky substance known as ‘honeydew,’ a sweet-sounding name for bug droppings. This attracts wasps and flies and is often colonized by a black mold,” adds Coyle. “For this reason, large populations of this insect are best controlled quickly.”

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They may not pose a threat to your physical health (or that of your pets!), but bug specialists like Coyle are imploring Americans to work to curb the spread of the lanternfly bug. Spotted lanternfly beetles, which are native to Asia, were first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014 — they’ve since spread in large numbers to 14 different states, according to the USDA. These states include:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • new York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

Concerned residents can view an interactive map of spotted lanternfly distribution courtesy of New York State Integrated Pest Management.

Agriculture officials in each of these states have established quarantine zones for the spread of the spotted lanternfly and are encouraging locals to kill these bugs after they are first sighted. An added bonus – killing these pests will ensure your gardens, houseplants, patio furniture and other belongings remain free from infestations of thousands of spotted lanternfly nymphs this fall.

How do I get rid of spotted lantern fly bugs?

There are two possible solutions to dealing with spotted lanternflies on your property: remove them immediately with an approved insecticide, or secure egg masses for analysis by local entomologists, advises Coyle.

“Egg masses can be scraped off anything with a plastic card or knife; these masses should be scraped into a plastic bag or jar of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer and discarded immediately,” says Coyle. “You can of course smash those egg masses too; they can be tough, so don’t be afraid to apply some pressure. You’ll see it pop after a good smash.”

If you’re fast enough, experts say you can physically crush even adult lanternflies. This is an excellent strategy if you’ve noticed a small group outside in your garden or yard this fall.

While it might be tempting to develop a DIY bug spray to deal with spotted lanternflies on your property, Coyle says these mixes won’t effectively kill the species — and may make the problem worse overall.

Do vinegar, dish soap, or other DIY solutions kill spotted lanternflies?

The short answer? no. For a larger infestation, particularly indoors in the home in question, you should call a licensed professional who will come and apply a highly effective insecticide once the bugs are spotted.

DIY remedies that target spotted lanternflies can seriously damage the plants or crops they are used on, as well as pets in and around your home. “When a pesticide is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, it means it has undergone extensive testing and we know how to use it effectively and safely,” adds Coyle.

There may be state farming regulations about what types of pesticides you can use to control spotted lanternflies—after all, these toxic materials can also affect beneficial pollinators and other non-invasive insect species.

“There are insecticides with labels that list ornamental trees as an allowable location,” as noted in materials published by PennState Extensions. “It’s legal to use them on ornamental trees, including Ailanthus altissima, to try and kill insects including the spotted lanternfly. You can see what they offer at your garden center.”

The bottom line:

It’s important for homeowners in the eastern United States to watch for the spread of spotted lanternflies this fall — and to take action if they appear on your property.

Experts say it’s likely an infestation is on the way if you’ve noticed your houseplants or garden items oozing or weeping an unusual solution and producing a fermented smell; or when there is a visible accumulation of honeydew on plants and the soil below. Plus, mold can also be a sign that spotted lanternflies are trying to breed thousands of new pests on your property.

Whether you’ve successfully killed or removed spotted lanternflies in the past, try to consider the following tips published by the USDA as we head into the fall season:

  1. While winterizing your outdoor spaces, Check any furniture or items for spotted lanternfly egg masses, especially before bringing them indoors.
  2. Scrape all eggs into a sealed plastic bag thoroughly coated with hand sanitizer, then zip up and dispose of immediately.
  3. Review any trees or plants on your property for signs of the spotted lanternfly. especially at dusk and at night when the insects are known to congregate in large groups on tree trunks and plant stalks.
  4. Scan all external smooth surfacesincluding trees, brick and stone for all egg masses.
  5. Report any egg sightings or removals by using the USDA’s reporting directory to forward information to your local agricultural agency.

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