With first spotting of spotted lanternfly eggs, let the next phase of eradication begin
The season’s first spotted lanternfly eggs have been found, so it’s time to get out the old credit card.
It’s not that money is required to get rid of the invasive insect’s eggs.
It’s that a credit card, a butter knife or any other similarly edged object can be used to scrape the egg masses from trees or other surfaces for eradication.
An employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture found the season’s first confirmed spotted lanternfly egg mass in Bryn Mawr, Delaware County on Sept. 19, said Dominique Lockett, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.
They should scan their properties for the eggs, scrape them off then place them in a plastic bag or container that contains rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them.
State and federal officials have launched a full-scale operation to kill the spotted lanternfly and its eggs to protect the state’s agricultural industry.
They say the bug could do billions of dollars worth of damage in Pennsylvania to orchard trees, grapes, hops, ornamental and other trees. It weakens plants by feeding on them and by producing a sticky sweet substance called honeydew that leads to mold.
The invasive insect was first identified in Berks County in 2014 and has since spread to 13 Pennsylvania counties and been reported in a few other states. State and federal officials have designated more than $20 million to fighting the pest.
Emelie Swackhamer, an educator at Penn State Extension, said spotted lanternflies will lay about 30 to 50 little jellybean-shaped eggs at a time in neat rows before covering them up with a white substance that quickly turns gray or tan. Sometimes the females will miss covering a few eggs, she said.
The egg masses are typically an inch long by ¾ of an inch wide.
Females try to lay their eggs on protected sites such as the underside of a branch or near flaps of bark or wood, Swackhamer said.
They’ll also lay eggs on just about any solid object, including rocks, lawn furniture, rusty metal, junk piles, cinder blocks, fence posts, cars and plastic children’s playsets.
“If you have equipment or debris that you intend to clean up and move, it would be really good to get that taken care of before lanternflies lay eggs on it, and avoid storing things under trees,” Swackhamer said.
It’s believed that females lay up to two egg masses, maybe more, she said.
That’s why it’s important to kill adult lanternflies before they start to reproduce.
“If they can kill the lanternflies before they’ve laid their eggs, that’s very useful,” Swackhamer said.
Besides foot-stomping, she said, neem oil, a tree extract with insecticidal properties, can be helpful in adult spotted lanternfly management, as can other more conventional insecticides.
“We have not found any products that look promising for smothering egg masses,“ Swackhamer said.
That leaves smashing the eggs or scraping them into a container with rubbing alcohol as the best option.
She said people might also find gypsy moth eggs, which look like they have tiny little hairs and feel like furry pillows. Gypsy moths are also invasive insects and their eggs can be destroyed the same way.
People shouldn’t destroy the eggs of the wheelbug, which is a beneficial insect. Their eggs are laid in a hexagonal, honeycomb pattern.
Anyone with spotted lanternfly questions or to report a sighting can call the spotted lanternfly hotline at 1-888-4BAD-FLY.