Lanternflies Are Coming to New Jersey

Spotted Lanternfly

Have you ever heard of lanternflies? They’re New Jersey’s most recent unwelcome guests, and they’re spreading like wildfire. Native to China, India, and Vietnam, these brightly colored bugs found their way to the United States from Korea in a shipment of landscaping stone. While they were first sighted in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014, lanternflies have now pushed their way into the Garden State just five years later. If you spot lanternflies on your property, this explainer from Horizon Pest Control covers everything you need to know about the growing threat.

What Makes Lanternflies Such a Serious Problem?

There are many reasons why these little bugs are a big problem. Lanternflies are known to enjoy over 70 varieties of plants, including high-value crops, like grapes and hops, reducing yields by as much as 90 percent. However, their favorite host plant goes by the scientific name ailanthus altissima, commonly referred to as the Tree of Heaven. While this non-native species has caused its fair share of ecological problems in its own right, it currently raises concerns as the lanternfly’s food of choice.

The way lanternflies feed on this and other plants explains why the damage they cause is so severe. Their sucking, piercing mouthparts extract sap from the phloem tissues found in young stems, excreting large amounts of a liquid called honeydew. The damaged portions of each plant stem weep this honeydew, inviting the growth of sooty mold and attracting other pests, including bees, wasps, and hornets. Over time, the process significantly weakens affected plants, making them more susceptible to cold weather and even more mold growth.

How Do Lanternflies Affect Me?

In addition to its destructive nature, the lanternfly has no known predators in the Mid-Atlantic region, which has resulted in a massive population boom. If left unchallenged, infestations could cost New Jersey billions of dollars in damage to its fruit and timber industries. The species is also extremely mobile, and bugs and eggs often latch onto vehicles, making it even harder to contain the spread. At this time, Mercer, Warren, and Hunterdon Counties have all been quarantined by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA), while quarantines for the following counties are likely on the way:

  • Burlington
  • Camden
  • Gloucester
  • Salem
  • Somerset

It’s easy to see why lanternflies are a problem for agriculture, but are they a threat to homeowners as well? Because of their diverse diet, your garden and yard can face the same dangers as farmers’ orchards and fields, especially if you’ve planted any of the lanternfly’s favorite foods. The combination of honeydew and sooty mold from the feeding process can also leave behind an unpleasant residue that will stick to your home, patio furniture, playsets, and other outdoor items. Just as importantly, this residue can prove harmful to pets, and you should contact your vet if you suspect it’s been ingested by your cat or dog.

What to Do if You Spot Lanternflies

If you notice swarms of lanternflies or their feeding residue around your New Jersey home, be sure to call the NJDA immediately at 833-223-2840, or send an email to SLF-plantindustry@ag.nj.gov. Your next step? Contact Horizon Pest Control for a free quote. Our highly trained technicians will use the most advanced techniques available to attack lanternflies where they feed and where they swarm, keeping your home free from annoying pests. To learn more, call 888-612-2847 today.

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