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Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) Lycorma delicatula

NOT present in New Zealand

The SLF (Spotted Lanternfly) regularly appears on nightly news in the US, where eradication efforts are estimated to cost Pennsylvania US$324M a year. It looks pretty with its wings out (below), but videos of thousands of swarming SLFs and their ooze of honeydew make great television, striking fear into the hearts of gardeners and commercial growers worldwide

Spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula.
Spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula. Credit: jfeuerstein, iNaturalist

The SLF is a leafhopper of the order Hemiptera, and is closely related to cicadas, brown marmorated stink bugs[PN1] and aphids. SLF won’t bite you and won’t eat plant or fruit tissue. It survives by piercing stems and leaves and ingesting the sugars in the phloem. Unfortunately, it eats more than it needs and excretes sticky honeydew onto anything it sits on while digesting. The preferred host plant is Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), but the SLF can survive many of our commercial crops (see inset below). Sapsucking can kill a plant, but the real killer is the sooty mold that can take hold on the honeydew.

SLF is native to China but has become invasive in Japan, South Korea and the United States. It deposits masses of eggs on host plants or any sheltered hard surface, and then covers them with a waxy protective coating which makes them hard to control with insecticide. SLF is most likely to cross borders on woody plants and wood products, so shipments from affected countries are carefully controlled in New Zealand. MPI considers the risk of entry very low, because the eggs can’t withstand the extreme temperatures and agitation of sea or air freight. But if live nymphs or adults are accidentally imported and released here, we have plenty of host plants and the right climactic conditions to allow them to establish and become invasive.

Think you’ve found a spotted lanternfly or its eggs?

Photograph it.

Collect a sample (if you can).

Call Biosecurity on 0800 80 99 66 or send a photo using the free Find-A-Pest app

Early detection will give us the best chance of eradicating them before they become established.


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