Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted Lanternfly

About the Spotted Lanternfly

Life Stages

The Spotted Lanternfly’s physical appearance transforms throughout its life stages as it matures to adulthood. The pictures below illustrate the metamorphosis of each of the major life stages of the spotted lanternfly.

Nymphs

1st - 3rd nymph instar appearance 1st - 3rd nymph instar appearance
4th nymph instar appearance 4th nymph instar appearance
  • There are four nymphal instars.

  • The first three instars are black with white spots. 

  • They grow from a few millimeters to appro. ¼ inch and have no wings. 

  • They are strong jumpers to avoid capture or predators. 

  • They appear in this stage beginning in May through July. 

  • The fourth instars are approx. 1/2inch in size and bright red, covered in black stripes and white spots.  

  • They are strong jumpers and will jump to avoid danger. 

  • They appear in this stage from July through September. 

Adults

Adult Spotted Lanternfly Wings Closed Adult Spotted Lanternfly Wings Closed
Adult Spotted Lanternfly Wings Opened Adult Spotted Lanternfly Wings Opened
  • The forewing is gray with black spots of varying sizes and the wing tips have black spots outlined in gray.

  • Adults can be seen starting in July until December.

  • Hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band.

  • The legs and head are black, and the abdomen is yellow with black bands.

  • Adult spotted lanternfly with wings open.  While the adults can fly, they generally prefer to hop/jump and glide exposing their hindwings. 

  • Additionally, the hindwings are exposed when they are frightened or treated with an insecticide.

Egg Masses

A freshly laid egg masses that has a light gray mud-like covering the eggs.  A freshly laid egg masses that has a light gray mud-like covering the eggs.
An older egg masses changed in color to a light tan resembling cracked mud. An older egg masses changed in color to a light tan resembling cracked mud.
A hatched egg masses that has lost the mud-like covering exposing individual eggs that look similar to seeds. A hatched egg masses that has lost the mud-like covering exposing individual eggs that look similar to seeds.
  • Adult egg laying starts in September through December.

  • Egg masses can be seen from September to June.

  • While the adult Spotted Lanternfly does not survive the winter, the egg masses do.

  • Egg masses contain 30-50 eggs.

  • Females can lay up to two eggs masses.

  • An egg mass is approximately 1 inch in size.

  • Eggs are often laid on flat surfaces including tree bark, rocks, lawn furniture, firewood, boats, RV’s, pallets or anything left outdoors, which can be transported to new locations.

  • Research has shown that 80 to 90 percent of egg masses on trees are found 10 feet and above from the ground. 

  • Freshly laid egg masses have a light gray mud-like covering the eggs. 

  • Older egg masses change in color to a light tan resembling cracked mud.

  • Hatched egg masses lose the mud-like covering exposing individual eggs that look similar to seeds.

Look-Alikes: SLF is often misidentified as these other common insects

*To view each look-alike click on the thumbnails below.

Spotted Lanternfly Host Information

Tree of heaven Tree of heaven
Tree of heaven - female tree with seeds Tree of heaven - female tree with seeds
Tree of heaven Tree of heaven

While the Spotted Lanternfly prefers the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), it feeds on a variety of host plants including fruit trees, ornamental trees, woody trees, vegetables, herbs, grains and vines.  Spotted Lanternfly is known to feed on over 70 host plant species!

Tree of Heaven (TOH) is the preferred, possibly required, host of spotted lanternfly.

Feeding behavior varies depending on life stage. With no significant preference for TOH, early instar nymphs have a broader host range than adults.

There is a strong preference for TOH during the 4th instar through early- to mid-staged adults. Late season adults tend to prefer trees other than TOH (silver maple, willow, etc.) Turgor pressure and sap flow may contribute to this preference. The proximity of TOH to other preferred hosts had no significant effect on how many SLF were found per tree. There is currently research underway to determine if SLF requires feeding on TOH to complete its lifecycle. (The paragraphs above are from the Kutztown University SLF Host Study.)

Tree of Heaven is also considered an invasive species which is easily mistaken for staghorn sumac, a native that grows in similar soils and areas.

NJ Audubon: How to Correctly Distinguish Invasive Tree of Heaven from Native Sumac

Cornell University: Tree of Heaven Identification, Look-a-Likes and Biology

Spotted Lanternfly Stages And Trees Where It Can Be Found


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