Lantern Flies Illuminate Agriculture Risk

Sep 27, 2022

The first leaves of fall haven’t yet taken over the sweet memories of summertime. The smoke from the grill, the splashing of waves, and the…. spotted lantern fly sucking the life out of trees rustling in the breeze?


2022 has been the summer of the spotted lantern fly for folks in 14 East Coast and Midwestern U.S. states.

The gray and red spotted planthopper population has exploded after its 2014 entry into Pennsylvania. It hails from China, and is assumed to be an accidental cargo import.

While it’s a nuisance for homeowners dreading the insect’s secreted honeydew stickying up their property, the fly could devastate ag.

The sap-sucking insect can cause severe damage to grapes, apples, hops, walnuts, and hardwood trees. Populations can build to the point that they completely cover a tree’s bark. *shivers*

The insect’s secretions can even taint honey’s color and taste if bees get their hands (er… fuzzy legs) on it.

Nobody is safe: Spotted lantern flies are scarier than your average hitchhiker, laying eggs in outdoor gear and on cars to ride along to a new destination. They could make it to California by 2033.

The dark side: Penn State estimates the bugs could cause $324M in annual damage in just Pennsylvania. New York just injected $200M into infestation-fighting. The list of potential impacts is huge.

The bright side: Bugs can be controlled with normal agricultural insecticides, though an additional spray or timing adjustment may be needed. Other means of control are under investigation.