Identifying and Removing Spotted Lanternfly Eggs: A Guide
Spotted lanternflies (SLF) are one of the most prominent invasive species in the Eastern United States. They decimate populations of their host plants both by sucking out their sap and by leaving behind a sugary substance called honeydew. Despite its pleasant name, honeydew is quite harmful to plants as it causes sooty mold growth, which kills many plant species. Spotted lanternfly populations destroy natural habitats and agricultural crops alike, and one of the best ways to curb their destruction is to kill their eggs before they can hatch. Read on to learn exactly how to search for and remove spotted lanternfly eggs.
What Do Spotted Lanternfly Eggs Look Like?
Spotted lanternfly eggs are laid in clusters that are roughly 1 to 1 ½ inches long and ¾ to 1 inch wide. Each cluster contains around 30 to 50 eggs which are arranged in several adjoining vertical lines. Some lines are longer than the others which gives the clumps somewhat of an irregular shape. After laying the eggs, the mother covers them with a mud-like substance. When the coating is fresh, it is white or cream-colored and glossy. As it dries, the coating develops a dull, grayish-brown color. The covered egg cluster looks like a smudge of dried mud or clay. As time passes, some of the coating may wear off, exposing the eggs underneath. Individual eggs are approximately the size of a pencil tip and range in color from yellow to brown. If the eggs have already hatched, each egg will have a tiny oval hole.
When Are Spotted Lanternfly Eggs Present?
Adult spotted lanternflies start laying their eggs in September. The eggs are present throughout the winter and begin hatching in May. The best time to find and eliminate SLF egg clusters is between September and May, especially during the winter months when there are no adults to lay new eggs.
Where To Find Spotted Lanternfly Eggs
Most often, spotted lanternfly eggs are found on hard surfaces that are in protected spots- for instance the undersides of tree branches, tree branch crotches, or the undersides of outdoor furniture items. Other common surfaces on which to find eggs include firewood, rusted metal, rocks, pallets, awnings, camping gear, building materials, shutters, animal houses, gardening materials, tarps, barbecue grills and their covers, children and pets’ toys, vehicles of all kinds (including boats), and virtually any other surface that is outdoors.
There are several factors that cause certain areas to house more SLF eggs than others, such as high concentrations of host plants. Adults feed on a wide variety of plants and trees but their favorite host is the Tree of Heaven. They also enjoy fruit trees, grains, herbs, ornamental trees, vegetables, vines, and woody trees. Any area with large amounts of these plants is likely to contain a fair number of spotted lanternfly eggs. SLF eggs are also common where both vehicle and foot traffic are high. Such areas include campgrounds, parking lots, trailheads, train stations, and truck stops. In addition to host plants and high traffic, SLF eggs are often laid near other clusters of SLF eggs. Though researchers are not entirely sure why, adult female spotted lanternflies prefer to lay their eggs close to the eggs of other females, thus leading to high concentrations in certain spots.
Since certain areas have such high populations of spotted lanternflies, many towns and counties have implemented quarantine regulations to help stop the spread of this invasive species. To find out if your area is included in the quarantine zone, take a look at this interactive spotted lanternfly infestation map, and be sure to set the state to New Jersey.
How To Remove Spotted Lanternfly Eggs
There are two effective methods for removing spotted lanternfly eggs- squishing and scraping. Before removing the eggs, though, it is important to note whether or not the eggs are in a quarantine zone. If they are, they can simply be removed. If they are not, take a picture before killing the eggs and report the sighting to the NJ Department of Agriculture at 1-800-BADBUG0 (1-800-223-2840).
The squishing method of egg removal is as simple as smashing the egg cluster. Use enough pressure that the individual eggs break open, and be sure to squish the entire egg mass.
To remove eggs by scraping, you will need a tool like a plastic card, putty knife, or even a stick. Use your chosen tool to scrape the egg mass off of its host. Once the eggs are removed, place the egg cluster into a resealable plastic bag containing rubbing alcohol or sanitizer and dispose of the bag. The alcohol or sanitizer is what kills the eggs, so this step should not be skipped; egg clusters that are left on the ground can still hatch.
How To Prevent Spotted Lanternfly Eggs
Follow quarantine regulations. If you live in a quarantine zone, or if you are visiting one for a period of time, follow all of the quarantine regulations. Hitchhiking is the main method by which spotted lanternflies spread their populations. Before leaving the quarantine zone, thoroughly check the items on this checklist for SLF eggs, nymphs, or adults, and remove any that you find.
Keep an eye out for eggs. Whether you are in a quarantine zone or not, it is important to destroy all spotted lanternflies you encounter. Remove egg masses using one of the above methods, and squish any adults or nymphs you come across. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, get a group together to search quarantine zones for SLF populations and kill what you find. Trees are a great place to start looking, but it should be noted that the majority of egg masses on trees are unreachable. On maples specifically, a whopping 98% of egg masses are laid more than 10 feet above the ground, and only 2% are within a reachable distance. Using a ladder to reach higher egg masses is not recommended. Since killing one egg mass eliminates up to 50 spotted lanternflies, removing the reachable egg masses is enough to reduce populations significantly.
Hire a pest control expert. As with any pest, SLF population control is vital. While egg removal is rather simple, an infestation of adults can be far more difficult to handle. When the spring arrives, eggs start hatching and infestations can appear seemingly from nowhere. If your property is overrun with spotted lanternflies, a recurring pest control plan is the best way to combat the infestation.
Before this spring’s SLF populations hit their peak, give Twin Boro a call and we’ll work with you to create a spotted lanternfly control plan that suits your needs. Not in a quarantine zone? No problem! These pests are a hazard no matter where you are, so rest assured that with Twin-Boro, your native plants are safe from spotted lanternflies.