The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is a large planthopper native to Asia. Adults are about 1 inch long and have large, visually striking wings: The forewings (first pair of wings) are grayish tan with black spots, with the outer tip darkened by a patch of fine, short black lines. The hindwings are divided into three sections: a white patch in the middle; black tips; and about half of the trailing section pinkish red with black spots. The vibrantly colored hindwings are usually only visible when the wings are extended, as in flight. When the insect is at rest, however, the bright red of the hindwings may peek out from between the forewings, if parted, or the color may partially show through the forewings, making the forewings appear pinkish. The abdomen of an adult SLF is yellow with horizontal black bars down the middle of the back.
Nymphs (immature stages) lack wings and are black with white spots. In the final stage of development before becoming adults, nymphs are red and black with white spots.
SLF eggs are brown and are laid in rows on hard, smooth surfaces, including trees, firewood, landscape materials, outdoor furniture, vehicles, and more. After the female deposits the eggs, she covers most of them with a grayish, waxy coating that resembles mud.
Like most other planthoppers, spotted lanternflies usually hop as opposed to flying. Learn more about planthoppers as a group, including our many native species, on their group page.
Adult length: about 1 inch. Adult width: about ½ inch. Nymph length: from about ⅛ inch to ½ inch (varies with developmental stage).
The spotted lanternfly was first found in 2014 in Pennsylvania. Since then, infestations have been detected in numerous eastern states. There are no known populations in Missouri.
Habitat and Conservation
Like most other insects that feed on plants, spotted lanternflies are most commonly found around their favorite species. The preferred host species of the spotted lanternfly is tree-of-heaven. The spotted lanternfly, however, has a very wide host range and may be found on a large number of common Missouri plants, woody and nonwoody.
In addition to the presence of the insects themselves, signs of affected plants include wilting leaves, sap oozing from trunks, dead branches, and sooty mold where sap or the insects’ sugary waste products have accumulated. The sooty mold, by itself, can damage plants.
Researchers have noted that the spotted lanternfly’s patterns of distribution mainly follow human-altered habitats, such as along highways, railroads, and other disturbed landscapes rich with wild grapes, including Virginia creeper, and the invasive tree-of-heaven. Vineyards of cultivated grapes are also very susceptible to the spotted lanternfly.
The spotted lanternfly feeds on the sap of over 70 plant species, including grapes, apples, hops, oaks, walnuts, maples, stone fruits, and many ornamental plants. Tree-of-heaven, or ailanthus (Ailanthus altissima) — like the spotted lanternfly, a nonnative invasive species in Missouri — is the preferred host plant of the spotted lanternfly.
Plants with large numbers of spotted lanternfllies feeding on them may become weakened and begin to decline. As spotted lanternflies feed on plant sap, they secrete a sugary liquid waste called honeydew. Large amounts of honeydew can drip onto nearby surfaces and cause an unattractive covering of sooty mold on leaves, cars, decks, and other surfaces.
Invasive species not presently in Missouri. The spotted lanternfly has the potential to damage our forests, food supply, and economy by feeding on and damaging or killing trees and crop plants. If you think you have found this insect in Missouri, report it as quickly as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spotted lanternfly females lay eggs in the fall on smooth surfaces such as trees, firewood, landscape materials, outdoor furniture, vehicles, and more. Egg masses overwinter and nymphs hatch in the spring and early summer. SLF nymphs develop throughout the summer and feed in groups on a wide range of host plants. Adults appear in late July and are active through fall as they feed, mate, and lay eggs. Adults can tolerate cold temperatures and may survive until late fall. Look for SLF adults on the ground around tree-of-heaven or other host plants after the first hard freeze.
Introduced to the United States from overseas in 2014, the spotted lanternfly finds its way to new areas primarily by hitchhiking with humans. SLF egg masses can hitch a ride on a variety of outdoor materials, sneaking into Missouri from infested locations on anything from firewood to shipping containers.
This invasive pest has the potential to damage our forests and food supply by feeding on trees and crops. It could have a devastating effect on grapes and fruit and nut trees. SLF is also a threat to recreation and tourism in our state.
Learn how to identify the spotted lanternfly and stay vigilant for it. If you think you have found this insect in Missouri, report it as quickly as possible to email@example.com.
This species and several other types of tropical planthoppers have been called lanternflies for a long time. They got the name because 18th-century entomologists — looking only at dead specimens, and reading faulty reports — mistakenly thought that the elongated, upturned snouts emitted bioluminescent light when the insects were alive. Despite the inaccuracy, the name has stuck. Many tropical species of lanternflies have breathtakingly large and elaborate snouts, but none of them give off light.
The spotted lanternfly feeds on over 70 plant species, many of which are native to Missouri. SLF feeding activity can weaken plants, resulting in decline or even death. This invasive pest has the potential to damage Missouri native plants and forests.
As they feed on tree-of-heaven, spotted lanternflies may acquire chemicals from the plant that make them distasteful or toxic to predators.
In its native regions on the other side of the world — southern China, Taiwan, and Vietnam — the spotted lanternfly’s numbers are kept in check by predators and diseases.