As spring vegetation across Lebanon County comes into bloom, residents and farmers are on the lookout for a less welcome springtime sight: the spotted lanternfly.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed the first hatching of the invasive insect, which hails from Vietnam, India, and China, on April 21. That hatching was spotted in western Philadelphia, but as the lanternfly’s range has spread out to encompass most of the state’s southeastern counties, it’s a safe bet that some have already hatched in Lebanon County, too.

The extent of the spotted lanternfly’s range in 2020. (PA USDA)
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At this time of year, the insect is within one of two easily identifiable stages of its life cycle: the egg mass and nymphs.

An egg mass. (Scott Ausmus/USDA)

The egg mass, found on trees and other hard surfaces from September through May, is about an inch long and almost as wide. It can vary in appearance from shiny and mud-like to cracked and brown. Removing these masses is one of the most efficient ways to prevent more infestation, as a single egg mass can contain 30 to 50 eggs.

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Nymphs come in two looks and are generally found beginning in April. The earlier stage is a wingless all-black body with white spots. These develop into later nymphs with new red patches on the body. Nymphs are jumpy when approached, just like the adults they grow into, and they feed on -tender plant material. The similarly invasive tree-of-heaven (also known as the ailanthus) is their preferred host plant.

An early-stage nymph, which can be small enough to be mistaken for ticks. (Scott Ausmus/USDA)
A late-stage nymph, about a half-inch long. (Scott Ausmus/USDA)

If you see any of these forms of the lanternfly, officials recommend that you take swift action. Egg masses should be scraped off and into a baggie containing alcohol or hand sanitizer. It’s important not to just let the masses fall down, as they may still survive and hatch. If you’re already seeing the nymphs, which can start out as small as 1/8 of an inch, one method of trapping as many as possible is to wrap flypaper around the trunks of trees and watch for any nymphs that get caught.

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The flypaper trap, which exploits the nymphs’ instinct to crawl upwards. (Elizabeth Finlay/Penn State Extension)

Sightings can be reported at Penn State Extension or by calling 888-422-3359 (4BAD-FLY).

Businesses operating in the lanternfly quarantine zone (unrelated to COVID-19 restrictions) are required to receive special permits in order to move equipment, packages, or vehicles into and out of the zone. Penn State Extension is holding the free two-hour course necessary to receive the permit, and current registration is open until May 10.

The adult form of the spotted lanternfly, which is not expected to appear until later this summer. (Michael Houtz/Penn State Extension)
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The adult stage of the lanternfly isn’t expected to be seen much until July or so, when it flies off to feed on valuable crops and vegetation.

For a time, Lebanon County was the western edge of the lanternfly’s expansion range until March 2019, when the map was extended to include Dauphin County as well. That summer saw increased attention to the lanternfly as more residents began identifying it and sharing information on it via social media.

More information on lanternfly management for homeowners can be found at this link.

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