How to Get Rid of Spotted Lanternflies

They may be pretty, but you definitely need to stomp out these plant pests.


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I felt a little bad the first time I squashed a spotted lanternfly. With its gray-spotted wings and scarlet body, they looked a little too pretty to kill. But when I noticed a swarm of them sucking the life out of my beloved grapevine, I got over it pretty quickly. 

If you live anywhere on the East Coast and into the Midwest, you may have spotted (and probably swatted) a few of these new and decidedly unwelcome guests. Here’s everything you need to know about the spotted lanternfly—and what to do if you encounter them.

What are spotted lanternflies?

Formally known as lycorma deliculata, the spotted lanternfly is common in Asia, but was first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, these leafhoppers have spread along the eastern seaboard, and west into Ohio and Michigan. 

They start as black and white spotted nymphs, turn scarlet and white as they hit their “teen” stage, then morph into a bug with spotted gray wings and scarlet bodies as they reach the adult stage. 

Even though they have wings, spotted lanternflies can’t actually fly far, so they’re most often spread by hitching a ride on cars or trucks, in crops, or even in luggage or sports gear from an affected area into new zones.

Why are spotted lanternflies a problem?

You don’t have to worry about a bite or sting from spotted lanternflies, for you or your animals. But plant parents will definitely want to take heed—these bugs go after plants, tapping the sap for their meals, and often injuring or killing the plant in the process. 

While the tree of heaven (another invasive species) is their meal of choice, they also feast on agricultural plants like grapevines, hops plants, and fruit trees. And they can also feed off trees you probably have in your own backyard, like pine, maple, oak, poplar, and willow trees.

“When spotted lanternflies are young and in the immature stages, they can be found feeding on a wide variety of plants,” says Brian Eshenaur, senior extension associate for ornamental crops in the integrated pest management program at Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  “The small black and white-spotted nymphs will feed on the leaf veins of smaller plants and shrubs such as raspberries, as well as the stems of garden plants like okra and cucumber. You may have to lift up the foliage or view them from below to find them as they often are on the underside of leaves.”

Spotted lanternflies also secrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew, which attracts ants, wasps, and bees, and can cause a black sooty mold, which can harm your plants. 

Right now, there are few natural predators for lanternflies in the wild in the U.S., though Eshenaur notes that some animals are starting to notice this new potential snack. “A citizen science project out of Penn State documented praying mantises, spiders, yellow jackets, ants, and wheel bugs all as predators of spotted lanternflies,” he says. “In addition, birds will eat them, including backyard chickens, cardinals, and blue jays.”

But at the moment, people power may be the best solution to this pesky pest problem.

How do you get rid of spotted lanternflies?

If you spot these spotted menaces feasting on your trees or plants, you’ll find several effective ways to get rid of lanternflies.

1. Stomp or squash lanternflies

Affected states are initiating “stomp it out” campaigns, where you smash or step on the bugs when you find them. But that can be trickier if you spot the spotted lanternflies up in your trees. An old-fashioned fly swatter can help with the ones higher on your plants.

2. Vacuum lanternflies

Breaking out a shop vac or handheld can be another effective option—though you’ll need to take a few additional steps to ensure the bugs are dead, and clean out your vacuum well afterward. “Some of the lanternflies may survive their trip into the vortex, so empty with care and dispose in a sealed bag, or wait two days when they will have died before emptying,” Eshenaur says. “But don’t wait too long because the odor of decaying spotted lanternflies is not pleasant!”

3. Set traps

Attaching sticky traps to the trunks of affected trees can help catch them, though you’ll need to be cautious with those. “It’s important that they are loosely covered from the top with a screening material to prevent birds that are going after the immobile spotted lanternflies from getting stuck themselves,” Eshenaur says.

You can also use a simple lanternfly trap that funnels them into a container. “The circle trap utilizes screening that’s wider at the base and wrapped around a tree trunk to funnel the spotted lanternflies into a container from which they don’t escape,” Eshenaur says.

4. Use insecticides or sprays

EPA-approved insecticides with active ingredients like imidacloprid, bifentrhin, dinotefuran, neem oil, and soybean oil can be used to kill spotted lanternflies. You’ll also find some home remedies out there on the web that are not EPA-approved, such as using vinegar or a 50/50 combination of dish detergent and water. (I personally found the detergent-water combination effective, and knocked out most of the lanternfly population on my grapevine with that.)

How do you get rid of lanternfly eggs?

If you really want to help stem the surge of spotted lanternflies, you need to destroy the eggs. And that can be a little tricky, as they usually look like a one-inch swath of light gray mud or lichen on a tree trunk or other object, that covers tiny rows of brown eggs. (Spotted lanternflies aren’t fussy, and will put their eggs on anything outdoors, like your lawnmower, garden furniture, or your car or truck—though Eshenaur says they’re most likely high up in the canopies of trees). 

If you spot them, use a knife, credit card, or other flat object to scrape away the eggs and dispose of them in a baggie filled with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol.

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