In recent years, spotted lanternflies have started to spread across the agricultural and other industries. Infestations began to be a problem in Pennsylvania in 2014 .
These prettily-marked colorful insects are so attractive that they may be mistaken for small butterflies or moths but are extremely destructive bugs.
Spotted lanternflies feed on the sap of many plants and crops including fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, and hardwoods. Additionally, they leave behind a trail of honeydew which can attract even more pests and stain areas of the house if the pests have spread indoors.
In their native lands, the critters are controlled to a degree by natural predators. This approach and other natural methods are becoming popular today in organic farming and gardening.
Here’s how to get rid of spotted lanternflies naturally.
1. Scrape Off the Eggs
The life cycle of the spotted lanternfly (SLF) begins around September when the females lay 30-60 eggs which will overwinter unless destroyed .
These appear as grayish muddy-looking accretions on bark, plant stems, garden furniture, walls, cement, and other hard surfaces.
A scraper or any other flat-edged tool can be used to scrape off the eggs, bag and dispose of them, preferably by burning. This is a laborious but free method and effective in preventing a later infestation.
2. Insecticidal Soap
A solution of insecticidal soap can be sprayed directly on the adult lanterns or even at an earlier stage of development. The spray can be used on indoor or greenhouse plants as well.
Dead pests may leave a sticky residue leading to mold, so need to be collected up. They can then be put in a bag with some rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer and removed to the trash or thrown on the bonfire.
Misting plants, shrubs, and trees where there is evidence of infestation is an effective way of killing adult lanternflies over a wide surface area.
Alternatively, insecticidal soap can be mixed with cider vinegar in a mason jar and hung in or near infested trees or plants. This will help to attract, catch, and kill the pests.
3. Sticky Tape
Sticky traps or tapes to catch lantern flies can be bought from stores but are easily and cheaply made at home.
Strips of paper dipped in a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, and water, pegged up until dry can then be hung from infested tree branches. Various alternative recipes for mixes are available on the internet.
Thin strips of duct tape can also be used hung or attached to trees etc. but with care to avoid contact with wildlife or pets.
4. Vacuum Them
Another easy and inexpensive natural way of ridding the garden or house of these unwanted insects is to simply vacuum them up and dispose of them.
As with other methods, the dead or dying insects should be disposed of completely without opening the bag, preferably by burning.
Any dead insects remaining are best swept up without crushing or survivors dropped into a soapy solution to avoid staining and mold-forming sticky residue.
5. Chop Down the Tree of Heaven
The main tree that spotted lanternflies are attracted to is the tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus Altissima) . Cutting back these trees or chopping them down can deal with current problems and reduce the possibility of future infestations.
These are not native trees in the US and grow rapidly to a height and vigor that denies light and nutrition to native species. Considering reducing these invasive trees is recommended by agricultural authorities in states where lantern infestations are prevalent.
Again, burning the trees or branches after cutting and spraying organic pesticides around the remaining bases is a wise course of action.
Vinegar can kill lantern bugs on contact. Although cider vinegar or any white vinegar can be diluted, it is more effective to spray it raw, directly onto nymphs and adults.
Dispose of dead pests carefully to avoid retaining the sticky honeydew which can turn to black mold.
7. Neem Oil
This does not eradicate the problem immediately as the process takes some time to inhibit the eating abilities of the pests. Ultimately, they will be unable to feed and will die.
Many commercially available products contain Neem oil to use as a spray or in a liquid solution to protect plants from attack.
8. Essential Oils
Various essential oils can be used in a solution to deal with an infestation.
Oil of lavender, rosemary, peppermint or spearmint oils, and tea tree oil can be sprayed directly into lanternflies which will kill them and deter others.
9. Tree Wraps
These pests can be trapped as they climb up trees. Nymphs too can be controlled as they start their journeys up to foliage by banding trees with sticky wraps.
These wraps have had some bad press because of the potential danger to butterflies, small animals, and birds. However, covering over the bands with chicken wire minimizes these dangers.
In recent times, manufacturers of pesticides have produced wraps that are non-toxic and safe against harming wildlife. Successful banding prevents pests from feeding and mating so breaking the lifecycle of lanternflies and a host of other harmful insects.
Lanternflies are thought to have been distributed beyond their original habitats in exported goods to countries like the US. They have multiplied so fast that there are quarantine rules now in several US states affecting farms, cross-border movement of goods, and individual gardens.
Official guidelines encourage all residents and workers where infestations are occurring to make combined efforts to protect crops and plants from lanternfly attack.
Chemical insecticides may be effective in controlling infestations but there are increasing concerns over associated environmental issues. For organic farmers and gardeners, there are many other natural ways to address the problem of harmful pests while still protecting beneficial insects and wildlife.