Stages of the Spotted Lanternfly

The Stages and Strategies of the Spotted Lanternfly

The INSTARS are coming, the INSTARS are coming!!!!!! Instars are one of the four stages of growing spotted lanternflies experience before adulthood. The first three stages of instar growth are small black bugs with white spots. They are fast jumpers. These pretty pests are destructive to hardwoods and fruit trees as well as grapevines. The stage of instar after the initial three growing stages is larger with more red than black and slightly larger white spots.  While many botanists and entomologists (insect specialists) are working for a broader solution, the reality is, what is killed today won’t grow up to an adult spotted lanternfly.  The spotted lanternfly has been seen in all northern counties of NJ from Byram to Morristown.  Every year more counties and states are inundated.

Instars although small are still plant jumpers, meaning after the second or third jump they tire.  Right now, and through July, the first three stages are growing and seeking to climb to safety in the crown of trees, including the Tree of Heaven, considered a host plant.  The fourth stage instar comes into its own from July to September.

While the spotted lanternfly has no natural enemies, chickens and praying mantises are the top two predators of the spotted lanternfly. There are some spiders and other birds like the bluebird and grey catbirds that also eat them.   Because the spotted lanternfly is an invasive insect from Asia, many North American animals do not appreciaete their taste.

The spotted lanternfly adult begin damaging trees in July and can continue until December.  Spotted lanternflies feed on plant sap, disrupting the nutrient highways in the tree and they excrete most of the carbohydrates they consume in the form of honeydew, a sticky, syrupy liquid. The honeydew left behind allows for the growth of mold, which can ruin produce and cover leaves, blocking out sunlight and killing plants, and lets other insects burrow into the tree, further weakening it.

Strategies for Combatting Spotted Lanternflys:

  • Purchase flyswatters (Swatting an instar is easier with an already handy tool than the one you don’t have)
  • Use sticky tape about eight inches up on trees and remember to use mesh over the tape to prevent birds or squirrels from getting stuck on the tape.
  • Check your trees regularly.
  • If there are any Tree of Heaven on your property, have them removed.
  • Kill them as you see them. The smaller instars can be swatted, the adult spotted lanternfly usually needs to be stepped on.

These invasive bugs are pretty and annoying, they will hop indiscriminately on the car, garden, pool, and you. If you have the Tree of Heaven, also an invasive plant from Asia, call the experts at Precision Tree and Landscaping to remove it as the roots are encroaching and the tree drops suckers which makes a clean removal difficult.  By removing the host tree of the spotted lanternfly as well as crushing the SLF in whatever stage it is in,  we can begin to diminish the numbers of the threat to trees throughout the state.