Invasive Species

Pest Alert: Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) adult winged, in Pennsylvania, on July 20, 2018. USDA-ARS Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) adult winged, in Pennsylvania, on July 20, 2018. USDA-ARS Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Another major tree pest has emerged: the spotted lanternfly. This striking planthopper was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2014, and while it has not yet become widespread, it has the potential to spread quickly. Tree-lovers everywhere need to be on high alert. Spotted lanternfly targets grapes, hops, and the invasive tree of heaven first, but it can also attack and kill maples, oaks, fruit trees, pines, sycamores, willows, walnuts, and poplars.

How did it get here?

Spotted lanternfly is native to eastern Asia and parts of India where it is a common agricultural and forestry pest. It was first spotted in Pennsylvania northwest of Philadelphia in 2014, and it is not known exactly how it made it here. The grey egg masses are easy to miss, so it could have arrived in any number of ways. So far it has spread to some areas of New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, and those states are on high alert to identify and contain the insect.

An adult spotted Lanternfly (Photo courtesy of Bugwood)

An adult spotted Lanternfly (Photo courtesy of Bugwood)

What does it do?

In late spring to early summer, typically around May, eggs hatch and young spotted lanternflies (called nymphs) emerge to begin feeding. During the early nymph stages, they like to feed on leaves and soft stems. As they develop into later stages (called instars), they start feeding on tougher tissues, even thick branches and trunks. The adults prefer to feed and mate on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima, also an invasive species), but they are not terribly picky, and they will still attack a wide range of plants. They use their straw-like mouths to pierce plant tissues and suck out water and nutrients. This saps the plants of valuable resources and creates weeping wounds that leave the stressed plants susceptible to other infections and infestations. Over time, even a tree can succumb to the prolonged stress and die. More tender plants like grapevines will die more quickly.

2nd and 3rd instar nymph (black), 4th instar nymph (red body) in Pennsylvania, on July 16, 2018. USDA-ARS Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

2nd and 3rd instar nymph (black), 4th instar nymph (red body) in Pennsylvania, on July 16, 2018. USDA-ARS Photo by Stephen Ausmus.

How do I spot it?

Partially covered egg mass, 11/15/15, photo by Emelie Swackhamer of Penn State University CC by 3.0

Partially covered egg mass, 11/15/15, photo by Emelie Swackhamer of Penn State University CC by 3.0

Fortunately, spotted lanternfly spends its entire life cycle on the outside of the plant where we can see it, and it is very distinctive. The egg masses are the most difficult stage to spot, but also the easiest to deal with. In October, adult females lay egg masses on just about any surface they find. The masses look like lumps of grey clay mud about 1” wide and 2” long. At first, they’re shiny, but over time they dry out to a dull, matte grey. They can be on trees, houses, cars, trailers, crates – just about anything. This is the species’ best way to spread quickly. When the eggs hatch, the first three instars are round, black, wingless little dudes covered in white spots. The final nymph instar is a brilliant red with black and white spots, and it doesn’t look like any other bug I’m used to seeing in the garden. The adults are about 1” long and ½” wide with brownish-grey outer wings with black spots and a netting-like pattern. When their wings are fully spread, the bright red inner wings are revealed.

What do I do if I find one?

If you think you find a spotted lanternfly, take pictures, collect it in a sealed container if you can, and contact the entomology department at the Indiana DNR immediately. You can reach them on the phone at 1-866-NO-EXOTIC (1-866-633-9684) or by email at DEPP@dnr.in.gov. You can also find your regional inspector and contact them directly. If you live outside of Indiana, you can go through this website from the USDA to find your state’s extension service, and they will put you in touch with the right people. Want to learn more about spotted lanternfly? The APHIS division of the USDA has all sorts of helpful information in their spotted lanternfly profile.


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8 Invasive Plants to Avoid

Did you know that some of the plants sold at many big box stores, garden centers, and nurseries are invasive species? An invasive species is a non-native species with the ability to grow, reproduce, and spread quickly to push out native species and cause ecosystem damage and/or economic harm. The classic plant examples are Asian honeysuckle and kudzu. Invasive species make their way into our ecosystems in all kinds of ways, but when it comes to invasive plants one of the most common ways they are introduced is through ornamental use.

Many of these plants are beautiful, easy to grow, and quick to establish. That makes them great candidates for low-maintenance landscapes, but sometimes they're just a little too good at thriving, and they can escape into our natural areas and wreak havoc on the environment. Not all easily grown and quickly established plants are invasive though: there are several rockstar hydrangeas, and none of them are invasive (some are even native).

There are two main arguments I typically hear when I encourage people not to buy these plants: “it’s not invasive in my yard,” and “if it were really that bad I wouldn’t be able to buy it”. You might be able to keep a plant under control in your yard pretty well with trimming and weed control, but when seeds or scraps make it into areas with less detailed oversight, they may quickly take off and cause significant problems. I agree that invasive plants should be restricted early and not sold, but regulatory wheels turn slowly. Some states take longer than others to ban species, and some states are more aggressive than others in which species they list. Right now, Indiana actually has no laws restricting invasive terrestrial plants, but a new rule is currently under review to ban the worst of the worst species.

Beyond official regulations, it’s up to an individual nursery, garden center, or landscape company to choose not to use these harmful species, and several companies have begun to self-regulate. Below we've listed ten plants widely available for purchase that should not be planted, and we’ve provided some well-behaved alternatives (*native species are marked with an asterisk). We have stopped using any of these, and we want to encourage you to join us.

Burning Bush

Euonymus alatus

Why it's planted: easy-to-grow-shrub with bright red fall color

What to plant instead:

  • Chokeberry hybrids and varieties*: medium sized native shrub with excellent red fall color, also has white flowers in spring and showy black or red berries in fall

  • Diervilla ‘Kodiak Orange’: medium to large shrub with an orange tint to leaves most of the year followed by brilliant red fall foliage, pollinators like the yellow flowers

  • Dwarf Fothergilla*: small to medium sized native shrub with sweet-smelling spring flowers and a rainbow of fall color

Wintercreeper

Euonymus fortunei

Why it's planted: easy-to-grow evergreen groundcover

What to plant instead:

  • Canadian Wild Ginger*: semi-evergreen native groundcover, spreads underground by roots

  • Allegheny Spurge*: native cousin of Japanese pachysandra, spreading groundcover

  • Epimedium: colony-forming groundcover with good spring and fall foliage color and delicate flowers in spring

Callery Pear

Callery Pear

Callery Pear

Pyrus calleryana

Why it’s planted: inexpensive small tree with tight shape, white flowers, and good fall color

What to plant instead:

  • Hornbeam*: has a tight oval shape and can even be sheared for an even cleaner look, attractive gray bark in winter

  • Hawthorn*: small tree with round to spreading canopy, white spring flowers, and bright red berries in fall and winter

  • Serviceberry*: small tree, often multistemmed, with white spring flowers and tasty dark red berries in early summer, good orange fall color

Privet

Ligustrum species and hybrids

Why it’s planted: low-maintenance, hedge-friendly shrub

What to plant instead

  • Boxwood: evergreen shrub that can be tightly sheared or grown in a more natural shape, somewhat shade tolerant

  • Yew: evergreen shrub that can be tightly sheared or grown in a more natural shape

  • Panicle Hydrangea: showy summer-flowering shrub available in a range of flower colors and sizes, with the right variety selection pruning is unnecessary for an un-sheared but still tidy hedge

Purple Loosestrife  By AnRo0002 - Own work, CC0

Purple Loosestrife
By AnRo0002 - Own work, CC0

Purple Loosestrife

Lythrum salicaria

Why it’s planted: low-maintenance perennials with attractive spikes of fuschia flowers

What to plant instead:

  • Bee Balm*: colony-forming perennials that pollinators love, firework-shaped flowers in mid-summer in shades of red, pink, and purple

  • Blazingstar*: spikes of vibrant purple flowers in mid-summer, very popular with bees and butterflies

  • Turtlehead*: a late bloomer to extend the season with pink or white flowers from August to October

Japanese Barberry

Berberis thunbergii

Why it’s planted: un-kill-able shrub with colorful foliage, thorns make a hedge that keeps people out

What to plant instead:

  • Chokeberry hybrids and varieties*: medium sized native shrub with excellent red fall color, also has white flowers in spring and showy black or red berries in fall

  • Ninebark*: medium to large dark-leaved shrub with arching branches and smallish white clusters of flowers, larger varieties are most suitable for natural styles

  • Diervilla: medium to large shrub with options for colorful foliage, brilliant red fall color, pollinators like the yellow flowers

Sweet Autumn Clematis  By Σ64 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Sweet Autumn Clematis

Clematis terniflora

Why it’s planted: quick-growing flowering vine, late blooming, delicious smell

What to plant instead:

  • Woodbine*: North America’s native clematis is virtually identical to sweet autumn clematis, just less vigorous with not quite as many flowers

  • American Wisteria*: North America has a native wisteria as well with smaller flowers and slightly less fragrance than the better-known Asian varieties that some consider to be invasive

  • Coral Honeysuckle*: native non-invasive honeysuckle vine, trumpet-shaped yellow and red flowers, popular with hummingbirds

Maiden Grass

Miscanthus sinensis

Why it’s planted: quick-growing, dependable ornamental grass with strong structure and attractive seed heads

What to plant instead:

  • Little Bluestem*: narrow, upright ornamental grass about 18-36” tall with thin, attractive seed heads, good reddish fall color

  • Switchgrass*: upright ornamental grass about 24-60” tall depending on variety, open and airy seed heads

  • Karl Foerster Grass: reliable designer favorite beloved for its tidy basal leaves and stark upright golden yellow seed heads

These are all plants that people loved (and still love) for a reason, and it’s not going to be easy for everyone to let go of them. Fortunately there are great alternatives, and I’m hoping you join us in embracing them. If you want to learn more about the proposed rule restricting invasive plants in Indiana, WFYI has shared some more details along with the full proposed list of banned plants. Still not sure why invasive plants are such a serious problem? The Indiana Native Plant Society does a great job going into more detail and linking to other resources. Got any other recommendations for alternatives to these invasives? Leave us a comment!


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