Early in January, I attended a seminar where one of the topics was a newly invasive pest, the Spotted Lanternfly. My initial reaction was, 'what a cool looking bug'. This only lasted until the video was shown of adults attacking a poor, unsuspecting tree. Worthy of any B-movie horror film, a handheld video camera approaches a normal looking tree. As the camera closes in, you notice the trunk seems to be moving. Then the cameraman sweeps his hand down the tree. scattering lanternflies so thick they completely cover the trunk (pause for startled crowd noise). Ick! Also, when huddled together with wings folded, you do not see the bright orange or even the cool spots. When massed together they just make a grayish brown...well...mass.
Spotted Lanternflies are indigenous to China, India, and Vietnam. The first noted discovery in the U.S. was in Pennsylvania in 2014. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has an 'observe, report and destroy' order out on these pests since they were spotted (pun not intended but in retrospect found only semi-amusing by the author due to the gravity of the situation brought on by a bug) in the Winchester area of the Northern Shenandoah Valley in 2018.
With 2018 behind us, 2019 will present many challenges to pick up the pieces. At Bio Green, we are anticipating what will be needed. There will be a big increase in spring seeding with the subsequent increase in weed problems. Established lawns where root systems are depleted and/or density has thinned will be more susceptible to pest problems. Drainage problems identified and dealt with. Increased soil compaction. Exposed tree roots. Erosion. The list goes on but with proper planning and a return of some normalcy (weather-wise), we can put (and will work diligently to do so!) the pieces back together again.
During winter, you will only see the egg masses––but please check out the attached flyer from VA Tech. If you see any of the life stages of this insect throughout the year, report it to the Ask the Experts page dedicated to this issue at this link. If you actually trap one, you can take it to your local Virginia Tech Extension Office.