Spotted lanternfly adults

Spotted Lanternfly Adults


Ailanthus - Tree of Heaven, the Spotted Lanternfly's favorite food

SLF egg masses

Spotted Lanternfly egg masses are well camouflaged

Spotted Lanternfly

Scientific Name: (Lycorma delicatula)

Pest Category: Invasive • Agricultural Pest

Spotted lanternflies do not bite or sting. They feed exclusively on plants outdoors and can only survive for about 48 hours without feeding on a plant. They can be a nuisance because of their sheer numbers. 

Stop the spread

Spotted lanternflies are common hitchhikers at all life stages, but adults and egg masses are most commonly moved. Adults will fly into open windows of vehicles, into picking bins, and into the back of trucks while they are being loaded; eggs can be found on almost any outdoor surface.

Moving an outdoor item that unknowingly has an egg mass to a new location is a common way spotted lanternflies spread to a new location. Common items on which egg masses have been laid include firewood, motor homes, recreational vehicles, building materials, and even kiddie pools. To reduce the risk of these hitchhiking pests, the NYSIPM Program has created a spotted lanternfly checklist to use when visiting an area with known populations of Spotted Lanternfly. Use the list below or download our printable Spotted Lanternfly Checklist (pdf) to go.

It has been reported that spotted lanternfly feed on almost anything as they move from one area to another in search of a preferred food source. As an example, populations have been found feeding in corn and soybean fields for short periods of time, and spotted lanternfly nymphs have been found feeding on basil, cucumber, rose, statice flowers and even grass though none are a preferred food source. It is hypothesized they are only feeding to get the energy needed to move on to a more preferred host.

Feeding Behavior Varies by Life Stage

  • The beaks of first, second and third instars are not strong enough to penetrate woody tissue so they primarily feed on annual plants or the current year growth in perennial plants.
  • Fourth instar nymphs and adults have stronger beaks and are able to penetrate the trunks of trees, cordons, and the older growth of other perennial plants.
  • Late-stage adults move from Tree of Heaven to other food sources in the fall, although the reasons for this are not clearly understood.

Turgor pressure or sap flow of the plant appears to play a key role in whether spotted lanternfly finds it a good host because spotted lanternflies do not have strong muscles associated with their pumping mechanism.

Preferred Host - Tree of Heaven (TOH), Ailanthus altissima

Tree of Heaven is the preferred host of fourth instar and adult spotted lanternfly. When spotted lanternfly occurs in a new area the adults are most likely to be found on a Tree of Heaven. However the feeding behavior varies depending on life stage.

  • Early instar nymphs have no significant preference for Tree of Heaven a broader host range than adults.
  • A strong preference for Tree of Heaven develops some time during the fourth instar through early- to mid-staged adults.
  • Many more eggs are laid and the egg laying begins sooner if spotted lanternfly can feed on Tree of Heaven.
Late Season

However late season adults tend to move away from Tree of Heaven to grape vines, silver maple, willow, etc. Reduced sap flow later in the season on Tree of Heaven may contribute to this preference. The proximity of Tree of Heaven to other preferred hosts had no significant effect on how many spotted lanternflies were found per tree.

Last updated December 19, 2023