August 22, 2022

Protect the Vines: Spotted Lanternfly

Vineyard Update

First detected in Pennsylvania in 2014, the Spotted Lanternfly is an invasive species that can be detrimental to the country’s grape and orchard industries. Spotted Lanternflies feed on a wide range of fruit and trees, with the tree-of-heaven being one of the preferred hosts. 

If the spread continues, local wineries and vineyards are expected to be hit the hardest. Spotted Lanternflies can cause short- and long-term damage to the vines by feeding on them and leaving behind a residue or sap that encourages mold growth, plus could become a nuisance to visitors enjoying a glass of wine by the vineyards. 

From learning how to detect the Spotted Lanternfly to how to deal with them in order to protect the vines (Stomp, Squash & Scrape), read more below.

The Spread

First spotted in the Commonwealth in 2018, the rapid spread is accelerated by reproduction and their tendency to travel. As of July, the Virginia Department of Agriculture has added 18 localities across the state to the original quarantine (4).

Watch the nationwide spread, here.

While the species pose a serious threat to vineyards across the state, they cause no harm to people— so you can take the matter into your own hands. 

Look Before You Leave

A key method of managing the spread is minimizing their travel abilities. Attracted to shiny objects like trains and cars, Spotted Lanternflies are known for being hitchhikers.

Before and after any visit to a Virginia winery, please stop and take a look to make sure you aren’t bringing along any unwanted visitors. Spotted Lanternflies look different throughout their lifestyle, so here’s how to identify them:

Photo: Nancy J. Ondra
  1. Egg Mass: SLF egg masses are 1-1.5″ long and ½-¾” wide, shiny and grayish-brown in color when fresh. They weather to a flat gray-brown color with age.
  2. First to Third Instar: Immature stages are black with white spots, and develop red patches as they grow.
  3. Fourth Instar: Red patches begin to cover the whole body with black and white spots.
  4. Adult: approximately 1″ long and 1/2″ wide at rest; gray forewing with black spots and the wing tips are reticulated black blocks outlined in gray; hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band; legs and head are black; abdomen is yellow with broad black bands. 
Learn more from the USDA.

If you spot one outside the heavily infested area of the City of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick and Warren Counties, please report sightings to your local Extension Office: https://ext.vt.edu/offices.html

Stomp, Squash & Scrape

The second step to diminishing the spread is to kill any that you see. 

May – November: Kill Nymphs and Adults – if numbers are low they can be stomped, squashed or scraped, or placed in a container of alcohol, diluted clorox (10%), or hand sanitizer. Larger populations can be treated with a contact or systemic insecticide. 

Late September – May: Scrape egg masses into a plastic bag or container with alcohol, diluted clorox (10%), or hand sanitizer. 

Other Ways to Help

More Resources

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