Alarming Spotted Lantern Fly Invasion requires Empowerment, Acumen Spotted Lantern Fly. Photo: Holly Raguza, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Take a good look at this beautiful Spotted Lantern Fly:  

Like many lovely creatures, it is dangerous, and will eat and destroy fruit trees, ornamental trees, woody trees, vegetables, herbs, grains and vines.

The Local Threat

A headline in 2018:

And yet the problem is growing:

Here is a map of the projected spread of the Spotted Lantern Fly, typically associated with the distribution of Ailanthus trees:
(Fig. 4) Potential spread of the spotted lanternfly in the USA is typically associated with the distribution of the tree-of-heaven species. (Photo Credit: Wakie et al 2019, Journal of Economic Entomology).

As you can see, western New York is bright red. Rochester City Newspaper journalist Gino Fanelli updated us on this threat on August 23, writing ” it’s not a matter of if the bugs invade, but when.”

This warning was followed up on August 24 by WXXI Connections Wiz Evan Dawson, talking with Mr. Fanelli and Brian Eshenaur and Hans Walter-Peterson, both from Cornell Cooperative Extension, focusing on threats of the Spotted Lantern Fly to ornamental crops and the Finger Lakes Grape Program respectively.

What can we do about it?

The problems in Pennsylvania are so severe that there are Spotted Lantern Fly quarantine compliance rules, accessible in the link below. The first step is knowing what to look for.

July until late December
Left: The adults (shown at rest), 1 inch long.
Right: Adults will show their red underwings when disturbed.

September through June.
Left: The egg masses can be on trees, rocks, or any other solid object
Right: The empty remains of the eggs that have hatched.
April through July
Left: The young nymphs are black with white spots
July through September
Right: The older nymphs are black and red with white spots


As Mr. Dawson asked his guests, mixing environmental ethics and practical need, “are you a squisher?”

Even an eighth grader was able to get a campaign going in New Jersey:

Milan Zhu did research and saw under the microscope that the setae used by the Spotted Lantern Fly to detect predators are in the back of the bug, not in the front, and found she could stomp out 80% as opposed to only 20% by approaching them from the front.

”Smashing lanterflies has been encouraged by state officials, who fear that the bugs may threaten New Jersey’s $1 billion agricultural industry. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture even launched a “Stomp It Out” campaign last summer with billboards and other advertisements to get the public to squish lanternflies. 

Removal of hosts

Tree of Heaven, photo credit Richard Gardner,

You can see Ailanthus all over the Town and Village of Pittsford, along the canal, and probably even in your own back yard.

Spotted Lanternflies are native to China and nearby Asia.  Ailanthus trees are native to China.  Lanternflies recognize Ailanthus tree as home, where they thrive before going out to kill our own native plants.

The good news is that we can get rid of these two invasive species at the same time. In the aforementioned City article, Mr. Fanelli quotes Chris Logue, (New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets), as saying that preemptive removal of the host could help prevent infestations of the Spotted Lantern Fly. The bad news is that this is easier said than done.

Ailanthus altissima is known as Tree of Heaven, but also called Tree of Hell (Stink Tree, Stinking Sumac, Stinking Chun), because of the difficulty getting rid of it and its unpleasant odor.
This tree can grow to 16 feet wide, 49 feet high, and has been seen as old as 162 years. The usual life span is 50 years.

The Ailanthus is highly toxic to other plants, through its abundant root systems with multiple suckers. Not only does it crowd out native trees, shrubs and plants, it actually poisons them with allelopathic chemicals. 

The roots of Tree of Heaven can readily damage sewer systems and foundations; the leaves are toxic to domestic animals, and contact with the sap may produce skin rashes.Jul 10, 2019

It spreads easily and can quickly take over.

But it is not easy: 

Chemical Control Is Not so Good

(Fig. 7) Applying a herbicide treatment to the cut stump of a tree-of-heaven will not prove effective against root suckers. (Photo Credit: Steven K. Rettke, Rutgers Coop. Ext.)

Cutting and poisoning is a very bad method for bigger trees like this one.  Herbicides so freely used, even when injected into stems, may kill non-target trees, because of the Ailanthus habit of root sprouting.   

“In southeastern Ohio, 17.5% of native hardwoods within 10 feet (3 m) of trees-of-heaven injected with imazapyr were also killed. The authors surmised that root grafts and/or shared mycorrhizae translocated imazapyr from tree-of-heaven to native hardwood roots.

Chemical control programs targeting herbaceous species may unintentionally increase [emphasis is mine] tree-of-heaven, depending upon the herbicides used”. 

Hack and Squirt

Hack and Squirt method (Fig. 15) Be certain not to girdle the stem, but to leave spaces between cuts. Use the squirt bottle to spray & fill the herbicide into the cuts. (Photo Credit: Steven K. Rettke, Rutgers Coop. Ext.)

Pull Them Out

These small trees above would not need to be treated with triclopyr, but could be pulled out easily with a truck and chain.  (Photo Credit: Steven K. Rettke, Rutgers Coop. Ext.)

The best and simplest way is to get Ailanthus out as seedlings, when they are very young, being sure to get the roots.

Those of you who know me know I am death on chemicals, but I recognize the dilemmas.  Cutting alone can increase Ailanthus density, but cutting and applying glyphosate (remember, one spray can kill a frog in an hour), and establishing native trees to take over is the best way to proceed.

Replace their Hosts with Native Trees

Integrated management includes not only killing the target plant, but establishing desirable species and discouraging nonnative, invasive species over the long term. 

Oak Tree Sapling, host to 600 species of butterfly (Lepidodoptera larvae) Photo credit Gardening Knowhow.

This oak tree illustrates the most important principle regarding sustainability in our own gardens.  If we want our healthy ecosystem to survive, we need to provide our native pollinator insects with native pollinating plants.  For example, a White Oak will host 600 or more species of butterflies and moths, whereas a Chinese Butterfly Bush, in spite of its name, only one.

Illustration to Matthew 7:17–18: Good tree bears good fruit; corrupt tree bears evil fruit. Jan Luyken (1712).

No plant or person or animal is either all good or all bad, and it depends a great deal on perspective and on context.  If you are interested in the advantages of Ailanthus in any place other than Pittsford, you can read all about them here

To come back full circle to A Frog House and our campaign, besides my sincere request that the Village and Town of Pittsford remove all the Ailanthus in our purview, as well as encourage their elimination by residents, we also need to keep in mind the amazing and generous contributions frogs make to our lives.

Sic the Frogs on them!

Bonnie: Photo Credit Robert Corby
Clyde: Photo Credit Robert Corby

Fortunately, there are no known members of Spotted Lantern Fly at 65 State Street, but if they came, they would be eaten!  

Support A Frog House. SAVE THE FROGS! 

Consider learning more about building a small pond or wetlands in your backyard.

Keep your eyes peeled.  Report your findings to the Cornell Cooperative Extension. .

Stomp out Lanternflies and extirpate Ailanthus.  

Replace imported plants with native pollinator friendly species.

Sign our petition.

Come to our Halloween Party! have fun, and hear more about sustainability from

Michael Boller, Sandra Frankel, Rob Corby, Margot Fass, Isabelle Rowley, and others.

Tell us what you know.

SAVE THE FROGS!  Support A Frog House.