Wild Nature

published : 2023-09-29

Illinois Discovers First Sighting of Invasive Spotted Lanternfly

East Coast States Urgently Combat and Eradicate the Pest on Sight

An image of a spotted lanternfly perched on a leaf, showcasing its distinctive black spots and vibrant red wing markings. [Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV]

Illinois has become the latest state to uncover a sighting of the invasive spotted lanternfly, an airborne insect that is rapidly spreading across the eastern United States. In response to this alarming discovery, New York and other East Coast states have already implemented measures urging residents to squish the pests upon sight.

First detected in the U.S. almost ten years ago, these pests have cleverly hitchhiked on vehicles and trains, expanding from southeast Pennsylvania to other regions of the country.

While the spotted lanternfly may appear visually appealing with its elegant black spots and vibrant red wing markings, this sap-sucking bug poses a significant threat to plants. Indulging in mass feeding, it leaves behind a sticky and sweet excretion called honeydew. Unfortunately, this residue attracts not only more insects but also a type of sooty mold that can prove fatal for already weakened plants. The consequences extend beyond agriculture, posing a danger to crops and native trees and even collecting on houses, decks, and outdoor furniture.

A close-up shot of a sticky residue known as honeydew left behind by the spotted lanternfly on a plant. The sugary waste glistens under the sunlight. [Taken with Nikon D850]

The Illinois Department of Agriculture recently confirmed the presence of spotted lanternflies in the state. On September 16, a sighting of one of these winged adult insects was reported at an undisclosed location. Upon investigation, Department staffers discovered a moderately populated area of spotted lanternflies. Specimens were collected and later confirmed as the first identified in Illinois.

Although the pests may not cause widespread plant or tree deaths in Illinois, they are expected to become a nuisance, particularly for the agritourism industry encompassing orchards, pumpkin patches, and vineyards, as stated by Scott Schirmer, Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Nursery and Northern Field Office Section Manager.

Residents are strongly encouraged to take action if they encounter these insects. Smashing them or scraping the egg masses into a container filled with hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol is advised as an effective means to exterminate them.

A panoramic view of a picturesque orchard in Illinois, highlighting the beautiful scenery that may be impacted by the presence of spotted lanternflies. [Taken with Sony A7 III]

Spotted lanternflies, originally native to eastern Asia, have previously been confirmed in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and various southeastern states. Close to a decade in the making, the incursion of spotted lanternfly into the Midwest and Illinois has been closely monitored and anticipated, stated Jerry Costello II, the director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

To support tracking efforts, the public is encouraged to report any sightings, accompanied by photographs, to lanternfly@illinois.edu.

This enthralling narrative of the invasive spotted lanternfly serves as a reminder that our ecosystems are continually facing threats from non-native species. By staying vigilant and taking swift action to combat these pests, we can protect our agricultural heritage, preserve our natural environment, and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.