Spotted lanternfly ‘could reach Michigan at any time’: What to know about this invasive species

Insect threatens agriculture, natural resources

Spotted lanternflies are more likely to be seen with wings folded. Look for grey to brown wings with black spots, and black-striped wing tips. (Photo courtesy of Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org.)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan officials want residents to be on the lookout for the spotted lanternfly, an invasive species that threatens agriculture and natural resources.

Update: Invasive spotted lanternfly found in Michigan for first time: What to know

The spotted lanternfly feeds on more than 70 different plants including grapes, apples, hops and hardwood trees. It was first detected in the United States in 2014 in southeastern Pennsylvania and has been spreading since. Infestations have been confirmed in Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

It has not been detected in Michigan, but the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have confirmed five cases of dead spotted lanternfly in separate locations across the state.

In those incidents, the dead insects were found in packaging materials or objects shipped from states with known infestations.

“Our agricultural and natural resources are part of Michigan’s identity, and the spotted lanternfly has the potential to forever change that landscape,” said Robert Miller, MDARD’s invasive species prevention and response specialist within the Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division. “With its ability to wreak havoc on grapes, apples, hops, stone fruits and more, this could be devastating to Michigan’s farmers and the state’s food and agriculture industry.”

Read: Michigan: Be on lookout for invasive spotted lanternfly

Adult spotted lanterfly's bright wing coloration is hidden when wings are closed. Photo courtesy of Robert Gardner, Bugwood.org. (MDARD)

Why public awareness is vital

While spotted lanternflies cannot fly long distances, it can lay eggs on nearly any surface.

They have been known to lay eggs on cars, trailers, firewood, outdoor furniture and more.

Before you leave an infected area, you should check your vehicles, firewood and other outdoor equipment for hitchikers.

People and businesses receiving shipments from states known to have spotted lanternfly should be on the lookout for egg masses on goods and packing materials.

“With the current rate of spread, it is possible spotted lanternfly could reach Michigan at any time,” Miller added. “Public awareness and reporting are essential to early detection, which provides the opportunity to contain an infestation before it becomes a widespread problem.”

Read: Bodies of invasive spotted lanternfly found in Michigan

Spotted lanternflies may lay egg masses on vehicles, outdoor furniture or other items that can be transported to new areas, leading to new infestations. Photo courtesy of Emilie Swackhammer, Penn State University, Bugwood.org. (MDARD)

How does the spotted lanternfly cause damage?

It sucks sap from host plants while secreting large amounts of sugar-rich, sticky liquid called honeydew.

The honeydew and resulting black sooty mold can kill plants and foul surfaces. The honeydew attracts pests like yellow jackets, flies and ants.

Lifecycle of a spotted lanternfly

From late summer to the first hard frost, spotted lanternflies are in their adult stage and easiest to identify.

Adults are roughly one inch long. Their folded wings are gray to brown with black spots. Open wings reveal a yellow and black abdomen and bright red hind wings with black spots transitioning to black and white bands at the edge.

They lay egg masses in the fall. The masses resemble old chewing gum, with a gray, waxy, putty-like coating. Egg masses can survive winter temperatures and hatch in the spring.

Hatched eggs appear as brownish, seed-like deposits. Spotted lanternfly juveniles are wingless and are black with white spots, developing red patches in their final juvenile stage.

Read: Spotted lanternfly could be next invasive species in Michigan: What to know

Spotted lanternflies go through several phases, first resembling spotted beetles before morphing into their adult form. Photo courtesy of Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences. (MDARD)

What to do if you find a spotted lanternfly

If you find a spotted lanternfly egg mass, juvenile or adult take several photos and make note of the date, time and location of the sighting.

Then report it to MDARD via email at MDA-Info@Michigan.gov or by calling 800-292-3939. If you can, collect a specimen in a container for it to be verified.

Before traveling, check out the map of confirmed spotted lanternfly locations. For additional information on identifying or reporting, visit Michigan.gov/SpottedLanternfly.


About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.