Spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycorma delicatula, an invasive planthopper native to China, is thought to have arrived as egg masses on a stone shipment in 2012. That first infestation was found in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014 in a wooded area of Ailanthus altissima, or Tree of Heaven. Despite a quarantine of the townships involved, and efforts to eradicate this pest, spotted lanternfly has proved difficult to contain and now includes infestations and sightings in several states. Quarantine efforts have been moderately effective in slowing its spread. For comparison, spotted lanternfly was introduced to South Korea (approximately the size of Pennsylvania) in 2004 and spread throughout the country in just three years. Their rapid dispersion is attributed to their ability to hitchhike via transportation as well as the widespread availability of its preferred hosts, Tree of Heaven.
In southeast Pennsylvania, spotted lanternfly has proven to be a serious pest of grapes (both cultivated and wild). Besides agricultural crops like hops, apples, peaches, and other tree fruits, they move into wooded and residential areas to feed on black walnut, maples, tulip poplar, and black cherry. Because of the copious amount of honeydew they produce, SLF has become a significant nuisance in residential areas, promoting the growth of sooty mildew and attracting other insects.
Timeline of sightings, infestations, and quarantines:
- 2014: Initial infestation found in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014. Thought to have arrived on a stone shipment in 2012.
- 2017: A dead adult Spotted lanternfly became the first New York sighting in Delaware County.
- 2018: Spotted lanternfly adults or egg masses found in NY in Albany, Chemung, Kings (Brooklyn), Monroe, Suffolk, Westchester, and Yates Counties — all thought to be hitchhikers; no populations found at this time.
- 2020: In New York State populations were found in Staten Island, and Ithaca, NY.
- 2021: Populations expanded in the NY City region, Long Island, the lower Hudson Valley and a new population was discovered near Binghamton NY. Infestations were also detected in two new states, Massachusetts and Indiana.