The spotted lanternfly is a planthopper, meaning it is a type of bug and not a fly. It is native to China along with its preferred host, tree of heaven, also called by its genus name, Ailanthus. In native habitats, spotted lanternfly populations are regulated by parasitic wasps. Both tree of heaven and the spotted lanternfly are considered invasive species in several states. They did not arrive together. Tree of heaven was purposely brought to the United States in 1784 as an ornamental plant. The spotted lanternfly was first noticed in Pennsylvania in 2014. Since then, it has spread to 13 surrounding states.
Although the spotted lanternfly has a preferred host, it has a host range of over 173 crops and ornamental plants. It survives best on tree of heaven, and preferrence for it grows as nymphs mature into adults. The first three nymphal stages are black with white dots. The fourth and final nymphal stage has red on top of the body and wing pads. Nymphs start to appear around the beginning of May; adults appear as early as July. Around mid-July, late nymphs and adults actively search for tree of heaven. After mating, egg masses are laid from late September through the onset of winter. Egg masses on outdoor items are the primary way the spotted lanternfly is spread to new areas.
The time period for treating ornamental plants for spotted lanternfly is mid-May through August. If there is tree of heaven on the property, focus on treating them, especially around mid-July, when late nymphs and adults need to feed on them. A systemic insecticide is water-soluble enough to be absorbed by a plant and transported in its sap, which is then ingested by spotted lanternflies. Both systemic and non-systemic insecticides provide a contact kill. Some insecticide manufacturers provide a FIFRA Section 2(ee) recommendation for applying a product for a specific pest. Confirm with your state what you are allowed to do for spotted lanternfly treatment and if you need an additional license to do so.