The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recently announced that the first confirmed case of the invasive species, Spotted Lanternfly was found within the state. Fortunately, this specimen was found deceased and according to the MDARD, “There is no evidence of established populations of Spotted Lanternfly in Michigan.” So far, because of quarantine rules and regulations, we have been able to keep this insect out of Michigan. However, that doesn’t reduce the cause of the concern and increased awareness for Michigan agricultural businesses, especially seedling and tree nurseries and farms.
These invasive species are very harmful, and if gone undetected, can wreak havoc on both the economy and the environment. Check out these top 4 questions below to learn more about Spotted Lanternfly, how to identify it, how it can affect tree and seedling nurseries/farms, and what you should do if you find one.
1. What does a Spotted Lanternfly look like?
There are a few ways that you can identify Spotted Lanternfly. One way is through their eggs. These eggs are often found on the side of trees, in particular the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima). The MDARD best describes Spotted Lanternfly egg masses as resembling “old chewing gum, with a gray, waxy, putty-like coating.”
Once the eggs hatch, the Spotted Lanternfly can also be identified by its unique shape, colors, and distinct spots. According to Michigan State University (MSU), these insects will complete four stages, called instars, as immature nymphs before becoming adults. In the first, second, and third instar, black and white spots will appear on the body of the nymph. During the fourth instar, the nymphs will obtain a reddish-orange body with black and white spots.
MSU went on to explain that as they develop into adults, this is the only stage that the Spotted Lanternfly will have wings. With this, they are typically an inch long and half an inch wide. Their forewings are gray with black spots while their hindwings are red, white, and black striped. Take a look at the illustration below by Coleen Witkowski of Penn State University as it better depicts each lifecycle of the Spotted Lanternfly.
2. Where does Spotted Lanternfly originate from?
The Spotted Lanternfly is not native to the United States and actually originated from China and parts of Southeast Asia. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it likely arrived hidden in goods imported from those regions. Since first discovered in Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2014, the Spotted Lanternfly has been rapidly spreading across the country. Now, infestations within the U.S. have been confirmed in Delaware, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Ohio.
In the MDARD’s most recent warning, they are urging that freight carriers, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers importing goods into Michigan remain vigilantly on the lookout for these insects in order to slow the spread of this invasive species.
3. What potential impact it could have in Michigan?
If this invasive species were to become prevalent within Michigan, it could pose a great danger to several aspects of the state’s seedling, tree, and fruit agriculture. The MDARD states that “Spotted Lanternfly causes direct damage by sucking sap from host plants and secreting large amounts of sugar-rich, sticky liquid called honeydew.” Ultimately, this can cause a lack of needed nutrients to the tress and result in a black, sooty mold that can end up reducing marketable yields or even killing the affected tree.
So, what trees do Spotted Lanternfly feed on? The MDARD explains that the insect could damage more than 70 different varieties of Michigan crops, plants, and trees. And although the main tree Spotted Lanternfly prefer is the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), MSU points out that this insect is also known to feed on the following:
- American beech
- Big-toothed aspen
- Black birch
- Black cherry
- Black gum
- Black walnut
- Assorted dogwoods
- Japanese snowbell
- Paper birch
- Pignut hickory
- Slippery elm
- Tulip tree
- White ash
But it doesn’t stop there. MSU further revealed that it can also feed on many Michigan fruit trees including apple, plum, cherry, peach, and apricot trees. According to MSU, “Neither the immature nor adult SLFs feed on the fruits themselves, but large numbers of insects feeding on these plants during the harvest season can affect fruit quality.”
If Spotted Lanternfly is not contained, controlled, or eradicated, there’s no doubt that this could be a huge devastation on Michigan’s agricultural economy.
4. What to do if you find Spotted Lanternfly in Michigan?
If you see a Spotted Lanternfly egg mass, nymph, or adult, the MDARD advises you to take several photos, record the date, time, and location of the sighting, and if possible, collect a specimen for verification. Upon doing that, it’s important to report your findings to the MDARD at MDA-Info@Michigan.gov or call their customer service number at 800-292-3939.
Looking out for invasive species like the Spotted Lanternfly is important not only for the health of our own species but also for the well-being of Michigan’s economy. For more information, read more from these resources used throughout this article: