First found in Berks County in 2014, the Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) continues to affect the quality of our residential life and economy in Pennsylvania. The feeding habits of this invasive plant hopper are not only a nuisance; they have the potential to wreak havoc on our state’s viticulture, fruit tree, plant nursery, and timber industries.

The good news is there are steps everyone can take to help manage the invasion — beginning with identifying the Spotted Lanternfly’s favorite plants.

Spotted Lanternflies and Tree-of-Heaven

The Spotted Lanterfly’s most preferred host plant is Ailanthus altissima, or tree-of-heaven. Though its name sounds divine, this invasive species has become a widespread problem across North America.

Tree-of-heaven reproduces quickly and aggressively, crowding out native plant species and causing damage to infrastructures such as sidewalks, stone walls, sewers, and building foundations. Spotted Lanternflies seek out this exotic deciduous tree as the place to lay their eggs.

Other Key Plant Hosts for Spotted Lanternflies

New research in Environmental Etymology reports the Spotted Lanternfly can rely on a broader range of host plants than previously assumed. In addition to the tree-of-heaven, Spotted Lanternflies have been observed feasting on over 100 different plants worldwide — 56 of them are in North America.

In Pennsylvania, key plant hosts throughout the growing season include:

  • Rose (cultivated and multiflora)
  • Grape (wild and cultivated)
  • Black walnut, butternut
  • River birch
  • Willow
  • Sumac
  • Silver/red maple

Stopping the Spread

Spotted Lanternflies don’t necessarily kill all the plants they feed on. Still, they can cause significant damage and stress to important plants and crops, including Pennsylvania’s fruit trees, hops, and hardwoods. Current practices to stop the Spotted Lanternfly’s spread include removing tree-of-heaven and other invasive species such as Chinese sumac and oriental bittersweet.

However, it may not be necessary to remove other ornamental trees and plants that attract Spotted Lanternflies to your garden. Homeowners in Pennsylvania have reported seeing the insect in various life stages on all kinds of backyard plants, including peonies, cucumbers, and basil, for short periods. It is vital that they’re handled carefully.

If you’re concerned about preventing or managing Spotted Lanternflies on your property, our experts can help. For more information about our insect and disease management services or how to get rid of Spotted Lanternflies, contact us today!