Spotted lantern flies attacking trees across Berks County
The invasive spotted lanternfly insect is sucking the life out of trees in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.
The opportunistic insect uses a proboscis, or needle straw, like a mosquito, to suck the juices out of trees, especially in Berks County, where the insect was first discovered.
A nuisance tree, the Chinese tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is a prime feeder of water and nutrients, along with grape, cherry, peach, apple, pine, sugar maple and cherry trees.
Jason Gaskill, assistant district manager of The Davey Tree Expert Co., said the spotted lanternfly weakens a tree, while creating bleeding wounds.
So far there are no solutions in southeastern Pennsylvania, the epicenter of the attack of the invasive insect, which was first spotted in Berks County in 2014.
There are no natural predators — no birds, parasites or wasps — to attack the spotted lanternfly.
“Nothing is killing or hurting them,” Gaskill said. “They’re in such a population and putting so much pressure on trees.”
In the fall, the lanternfly lays its eggs. Each female may lay a mass of up to 100 eggs at a time.
Chris Fields-Johnson, technical advisor for The Davey Tree Expert Co., said that trees may be treated with systemic insecticide, which the invasive bugs feed on and then die. He also said that the spread is inevitable.
Fields-Johnson suggested that property owners with several Chinese trees of heaven take down all but one or two and treat the rest.
Fields-Johnson also suggested that homeowners look for egg masses on vertical surfaces, like trees and sheds, and scrape them off and mash them up.
He also said that the tough-to-catch flying insect should be crushed and killed whenever spotted.
“We have to do everything we can to slow the spread until we find better solutions, and find the time to come up with better solutions,” Fields-Johnson said.
Solutions might include introduction of new predators, like birds and insects, and use of parasite and hormone traps, like the ones used with the emerald ash borer.
Fields-Johnson said the bug can move from spot to spot very quickly and is a great “hitchhiker.”
Those with questions or photos of suspected spotted lanternflys are urged to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture by emailing email@example.com
If you think you have a major infestation problem, call a certified arborist. Inspections are typically free.
The invasive spotted lantern fly is attracted to Chinese tree of heaven plantings.
Spotted lantern fly eggs hatch in the fall. A female can lay up to a 100 eggs at a time.