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Update on spotted lanternfly

In October 2019, I wrote a “Gardening Corner” column on the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), an insect pest that was first discovered in eastern Pennsylvania in 2014. While I was sorting through some old Smithsonian magazines a few days ago, I noticed an article about the spotted lanternfly in the October 2020 issue. The insect is causing millions of dollars in damage to tree farmers and growers in Pennsylvania.

From eastern Pennsylvania, spotted lanternfly spread to Delaware and New York. In 2018, Pennsylvania set up a 13-county quarantine area that limits transport of any materials that could serve as vectors to spread the lanternfly, including firewood, yard waste, nursery plants, outdoor furniture or yard equipment, and building materials.

The spotted lanternfly is a native of China, where its primary host is the tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima). In Virginia, tree-of-heaven is a nuisance tree that grows along roadsides, forest edges, and on disturbed land.


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