Division Director, Urban Forest Management
The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is an invasive insect that is native to East Asia. Like many exotic insects, it has no known natural enemies in the United States to keep the population under control. This insect is a plant hopper and the nymphs and adults are excellent jumpers. Adults use their two pairs of colorful wings when they jump and glide.
The spotted lanternfly feeds on more than 70 types of plants including crops such as apples, grapes, hops, and walnuts, and other hardwood trees. Its preferred host is the invasive Ailanthus tree, commonly known as the tree-of-heaven, also from East Asia. Spotted lanternflies feed on plant sap and excrete a sticky substance called ‘honeydew’ which attracts wasps and ants. The honeydew also encourages “sooty mold” growth on plants and trees. This black mold can cover leaf surfaces, stunt plant growth, and together with the insect feeding damage, ruin crops.
This insect expands its range by ‘hitchhiking’ a ride on vehicles, outdoor furniture and tools, firewood, nursery stock and other objects moved by human activity. The female spotted lanternfly lays her inconspicuous egg masses on objects that can then be transported anywhere. As an example, the spotted lanternfly was identified in Pennsylvania in a 174 square mile area in 2016; at the end of 2017, it had spread to approximately 3,000 square miles. Orchard owners are beginning to experience significant losses, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
A coordinated response effort between federal, state, industry, and the public is necessary to protect crops, forests, and residential landscapes from this invasive pest. A management strategy that includes surveillance, treatment and control, and outreach activities to reduce its population and spread is being deployed in affected states.
As of September 2019, spotted lanternfly has not been found in Fairfax County. First detected in 2014 in Pennsylvania, it has since been found in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The closest established population is in the City of Winchester and Frederick County, Virginia. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services established a spotted lanternfly quarantine for Frederick County and Winchester City. The purpose of the quarantine is to slow the spread of this pest to un-infested areas.
Download the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) Spotted Lanternfly Quarantine Map
Joan Allen, Chief, Forest Pest Branch, Urban Forest Management Division, talks with Host Scott Coco about the Spotted Lanternfly. This invasive insect from the Far East is a threat to Virginia’s crops of apples, grapes and hops and to fruit and hardwood trees. (July 9, 2019)
For more information about tree pests and tree care or to report sightings of the spotted lanternfly, call the urban forester of the day at 703-324-1770 | TTY 711 or contact the Forest Pest Branch by email.
12000 Government Center Pkwy
Fairfax, VA 22035