Monday, April 9, 2018

Episode 415 (4-9-18): Spotting the Spotted Lanternfly in 2018 Means a New Invasive Insect on Virginia Trees

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:27).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 4-6-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 9, 2018.

This week, we’re focusing on a new, potentially serious insect pest, the Spotted Lanternfly, a member of the insect order of true bugs.  It’s not an aquatic species, but its potential effects on many tree species—including maples, oaks, sycamores, and willows—could, in turn, have consequences for watersheds or water bodies near such trees.  To learn about this emerging issue, I’m joined by Eric Day, who runs Virginia Tech’s Insect ID Lab in Blacksburg. Eric, welcome to Virginia Water Radio.

E.D.: Thank you, Alan.  It’s a real pleasure to be here today and speaking about this very important invasive insect.

VWR: What’s the origin of the Spotted Lanternfly, and where’s it being found in the United States?

E.D.: The origin appears to be northern China, and initially it was found in southeast Pennsylvania in 2014.  And we’ve been carefully watching it there because it is emerging as a pest of grapes and peaches, and also of hops.   And then now, starting in 2018, it’s been discovered in Virginia. So now we’re starting to gear up our work, gear up fact sheets and other information to deal with the new pest here.

VWR: Why is the discovery of it such a concern?

E.D.: There’s several issues in the pest status.  One is it’s a pest of fruit: tree fruits, the grapes, peaches, and hops I mentioned earlier, also on apples.   It’s also a huge nuisance pest, and it is in backyards causing a lot of issues, because it produces a lot of what’s called honeydew, which is this clear, sticky, sugary material, and then sooty mold grows on that, too.   So it is a big backyard issue. It also feeds on Tree-of-Heaven, which is also known as Ailanthus, which is an invasive species as well, so it [the invasive Spotted Lanternfly] is coupled with another invasive species.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t control Ailanthus, it just hitches a ride on Ailanthus and gets its way across the state in that manner.

VWR: What actions are federal or state scientists or officials taking in response to the discovery in the States?

E.D.: Several things.  The state [Virginia] is about to issue a quarantine, so there’ll be quarantines in place where this infestation occurs.  In addition, the federal government is going to be doing eradication, combined eradication of Ailanthus and the Spotted Lanternfly. But what we’ve seen, unfortunately, in other states and in other countries, too—it’s invaded in other countries, as well—is the Spotted Lanternfly is very hard to eradicate, because it feeds on a wide range of trees and shrubs.  That means it spreads out into the woods and it’s virtually impossible to eradicate.  We can slow its spread, much like we’ve done for Gypsy Moth, but ultimately it’s going to establish itself as a pest—yet another thing that farmers and backyard growers will have to deal with.

VWR: Well how can listeners identify this insect?

E.D.: This is a very easy insect to identify.  The name pretty much tells it all.  It looks like a tropical moth, with spots on its wings.  The immature stages are black, with either white or red spots. So, compare it to pictures on the Internet, and you’ll find it to be a very easy insect to identify. If you think you have it, report it.  You can report it to any number of sources: your local Cooperative Extension office, your county office; you can also report it to the Department of Agriculture, either the federal or the state; or the [Virginia] Department of Forestry.  All [these] people are aware of this and all [these] people are looking for it.

VWR: All right, Eric Day, of the Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab, thank you for visiting Virginia Water Radio to tell us about the Spotted Lanternfly.  If you’d like to learn more about this or other insect pests, contact your local Cooperative Extension office.


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode’s interview with Eric Day of the Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab was recorded in Blacksburg on April 5, 2018.  Virginia Water Radio thanks Eric for his participation in this episode.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at

Spotted Lanternfly adults (upper photo) and immature stages (lower photo). Photos courtesy of Eric Day, Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab, Blacksburg, Va., accessed online


The scientific name of the Spotted Lanternfly is Lycorma delicatula.  It was first detected in Virginia on January 10, 2018, in Frederick County, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension publication, “Spotted Lanternfly in Virginia,” online at

Following are excerpts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Spotted Lanternfly,” online at for USDA-APHIS information.

Basics: “The Spotted Lanternfly…is native to China and was first detected in Pennsylvania in September 2014.  Spotted Lanternfly feeds on a wide range of fruit, ornamental and woody trees, with tree-of-heaven being one of the preferred hosts.  Spotted lanternflies are invasive and can be spread long distances by people who move infested material or items containing egg masses.  If allowed to spread in the United States, this pest could seriously impact the country’s grape, orchard, and logging industries. People spread the insect by moving infested material or items containing egg masses.”

List of “what’s at risk”: almonds, apples, apricots, cherries, grapes, hops, maple trees, nectarines, oak trees, peaches, pine trees, plums, poplar trees, sycamore trees, walnut trees, and willow trees.

Recommendations for what citizens can do: “Inspect your trees and plants for signs of this pest, particularly at dusk and at night when the insects tend to gather in large groups on the trunks or stems of plants.  Inspect trees (in particular, tree of heaven), bricks, stone, and other smooth surfaces for egg masses.   If you find an insect that you suspect is the spotted lanternfly, please contact your local Extension office or State Plant Regulatory Official to have the specimen identified properly.”


Eric Day, Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab, “Spotted Lanternfly in Virginia,” 2018, online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), “Spotted Lanternfly,” online at  APHIS’s November 2014 “Pest Alert” on the Spotted Lanternfly is available online (as a PDF) at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Insects” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes that discuss non-native, invasive species.
EP321 – 6/20/16 – on invasive species generally.
EP383 – 8/28/17 – on river stewardship, including washing boating equipment to help prevent spread of aquatic, invasive species.


This episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Scientific Investigation, Reasoning, and Logic Theme
2.1, 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, and 6.1 all include the objective of “current applications to reinforce science concepts.”

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
3.10- impacts on survival of species, including effects of fire, flood, disease, and erosion on organisms.
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decision, hazard mitigation, cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 - living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.5 - food webs.
3.6 - ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.
4.5 - ecosystem interactions and human influences on ecosystem.
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.1 – understanding of scientific reasoning, logic, and the nature of science, including current applications to reinforce science concepts.
LS.8 - community and population interactions, including food webs, niches, symbiotic relationships.
LS.10 - changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes, including climate changes and catastrophic disturbances.
LS.11 - relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Biology Course
BIO.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs:

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to previous Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels:
Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade;
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten;
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade;
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade;
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade; Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school;
Episode 407 (2-12-19) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.