The spotted lanternfly (SLF) (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive planthopper first detected in eastern Pennsylvania in Berks County in 2014, and has since been detected in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The map below was updated on August 14, 2020 and includes both individual finds of SLF with no infestation present (purple dots), and where SLF infestations are present (blue areas) - which means a reproducing population had been detected and multiple life-stages of the insect has been detected and confirmed.
Since the initial detection in Pennsylvania, many eyes have been watching to the east. Earlier this year, Pennsylvania expanded their quarantine to include an additional 14 counties, bringing the total to 26 counties in the state to our east. Two (Beaver and Allegheny Counties) of the 14 newly quarantined counties in 2020 were in western Pennsylvania, near the Ohio border. As the SLF inches its way toward the buckeye state, more people are becoming aware and engaged in looking for this insect pest.
With the increased awareness, suspect reports in Ohio are 'popping up.' The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is taking each report very seriously to determine if what is being reported is SLF or a look-a-like. If you suspect you have seen SLF, we ask that you make a report directly to ODA either by phone (614-728-6400), email ( firstname.lastname@example.org) or on their online reporting form located on their website (https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/divisions/plant-health/invasive-pests/slf), or by making a report on a downloadable app called the Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) App at https://apps.bugwood.org/apps/gledn/
No matter which way you choose to report what you are seeing, photographs are an important part of the actual report. If you are able to capture and contain the insect/insects, that is also very helpful. Once the report is made, it will be determined if the insect submitted is SLF. If it is confirmed that the insect is SLF, the next step would be to determine if there is a reproducing popluation in the immediate area, or if the find was an individual and has not yet established itself as a reproducing population. This information is very important as other states have found that this insect can be a hitch-hiker, catching a ride on vehicles (i.e.: cars, truck, or trains) and depending on the situation, could still be alive, or could be dead on arrival (DOA).
It is important that if you or your family is traveling from, or through an area where SLF is present, before leaving the area, be sure to check your vehicle for the insect both inside and outside, and carefully go over any items that were outside during your trip. This should include looking for all stages of the insect, including egg masses that will be laid late summer and into the fall. You will want to re-check your vehicle and the contents again when you arrive home just to make sure that nothing was missed.
We all need to continue to be vigilent and do our part to monitor for this insect in Ohio. The GLEDN App also allows for negative reports. This is extremely helpful if you have identified an area that you can check on a regular basis looking for the signs and symptoms of the SLF. Ideally the location has a tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), a favorite food of the insect, especially the adults which are currently active in areas where the pest has been found.
You may ask, why is it important that we find this insect if it is here in Ohio? Early detection is key when we talk about invasive species. In addition to its favorite host, which is also a non-native species, it can feed on over 70 different plant species, but has found grapes, apples, and hops to its liking. The feeding injury can cause stress on the plants that can lead to decline and sometimes death. As their numbers build, they have become a nuisance in other areas as shown in some photos from Pennsylvania.
Spotted lanternfly nymphs and adult on a young walnut tree. Photo: Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State
Photo Credit - Penn State University
It is important to stay updated, as the situation can change quickly. If you can help look for this insect in your own landscape, or when you are outside, you can join the 'Spot the Spot' team in Ohio. While we hope that we don't find it in Ohio, if it is here, it is important that we know it and are able to determine the extent of the population. ODA, in cooperation with USDA, will verify any suspect reports, and if confirmed, will make an official announcement. If you happen to see any unofficial reports shared on social media channels, encourage the individual to make an official report or share the post with ODA yourself so that proper protocols are followed and that no finds go unreported and can't be followed up on to best manage the situation in Ohio.
For additional information on the insect, including photos of each life-stage, check-out the ODA website at: https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/divisions/plant-health/invasive-pests/slf