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Watch for a new invasive insect pest

About Spotted Lanternflies

adult spotted lanternfly on bark

West Virginians should continue to be on the lookout for a new invasive insect pest, the spotted lanternfly (ycorma delicatula), which attacks several host plants such as grapes, hops, and various fruit and timber trees. Native to Asia, this pest was first detected in Pennsylvania in the fall of 2014.  However, it has since spread to 14 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as counties in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The presence of spotted lanternfly in West Virginia was confirmed in Berkeley County in November 2019. Since 2019, spotted lanternflies have also been found in the following West Virginia counties – Brooke, Grant, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan and Taylor. 

Spotted Lanternfly Description

Spotted lanternfly adults are approximately 1 inch in size with grayish forewings marked with black spots and small black brick-like markings near the wing tips. The hindwings are marked with distinct patches of red, white and black. Adults lay yellowish-brown egg masses that are covered with a gray, waxy coating. The immature stages of the insect, or nymphs, are black with white spots, and they eventually develop bright red patches as they near adulthood.

Spotted Lanternfly Damage

spotted lanternfly nymphs on a green branch

Spotted lanternfly adults and nymphs often aggregate in large numbers on host plants.

Nymphs are known to feed on a wide range of plant species; however, adults prefer feeding and laying eggs on tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), particularly in the late summer and fall. The spotted lanternfly injures host plants by sucking the fluids from plant tissue, threatening a plant’s health. If left unmanaged, it can eventually kill the plant. They also produce copious amounts of a sugary liquid called honeydew, which can promote the growth of a black-colored fungus called sooty mold, and attract other insects.

Spotted Lanternfly Control

Currently, quarantines have been established in counties with infestations to stop or slow the spread of spotted lanternfly into new areas. In addition, efforts are being taken to slow the spread of this insect and limit its movement outside of the quarantine zones. 

However, if you find an insect that you believe is the spotted lanternfly, collect a specimen or take a high-quality photograph, and contact the West Virginia Department of Agriculture or your local WVU Extension office.

Author: Daniel Frank, former WVU Extension Service Entomology Specialist
Last Reviewed: October 2023