The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is asking that Hoosiers aid in the identification of the invasive insect, spotted lanternfly so that it can work to stop its spread.
Spotted lanternfly is a major concern across most of the United States because of its adverse effect on fruit orchards, nurseries and the logging and wine industries.
A population of the insect was identified in Switzerland County, near the Ohio River, in July 2021. A second population was found in Huntington last July. The DNR Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology and the United States Department of Agriculture have been watching both sites.
With the insect’s eggs typically hatching in late April, DEPP started scraping egg masses at the infested sites in early February and has destroyed more than 540,000 eggs.
As DEPP and USDA continue to conduct surveys to find the insect’s presence elsewhere in the state, confirm the extent of current infestations, and decide what other management strategies to implement, Hoosiers are asked to watch for and report sightings of spotted lanternfly egg masses in the coming weeks, and of nymphs and adults after that.
Adults and nymphs of spotted lanternfly have piercing-sucking mouthparts and feed on the vascular tissue of leaves, young shoots, branches and trunks of their hosts. Adults and older nymphs may feed in large populations. This extensive feeding results in oozing wounds on woody tissue and wilting and death of branches.
The lantern part of the insect’s name comes from the inflated part of its head, which was once thought to be luminous. Its wings are grayish with black spots. Flying displays its hind wings, which are black, white and red with black spots.
Spotted lanternfly prefers to feed on tree of heaven, but it has been found on more than 103 species of plant including walnut, oak, maple and various fruit trees.
This insect typically lays its eggs on smooth surfaces, and eggs may be in sheltered locations or in crevices on trees, rocks, fences or other outdoor objects, which is part of the challenge of detecting them.
Egg masses are irregularly shaped and about 1 to 1½ inches long. The individual eggs resemble wheat kernels strung together in several rows. After laying eggs, the female deposits a protective coating over them that resembles silly putty. As this coating dries and is exposed to the elements, it cracks and looks like dried mud. There can be 30 to 50 eggs in each egg mass.
Nymphs and adults tend to cluster at the base or lower trunk of trees during the day and are more active at dusk or early evening. Infested trees can show significant deposits of honeydew and sooty mold to the point where the base and surrounding ground may appear black. Tree sap oozing from wounds on trees and the honeydew may attract ants, bees and wasps.
Hoosiers are also asked to inspect any articles such as logs, firewood, other tree parts, decorative grapevines, any other outdoor household articles, and vehicles coming from Switzerland County, Huntington or any other area identified as having an infestation.
Anyone who spots signs of the spotted lanternfly should contact DEPP by calling 866-663-9684 or send an email to DEPP@dnr.IN.gov.