A destructive invasive pest is making its way toward Michigan, leaving tree dieback and sticky honeydew in the wake of its brightly-colored wings.
The spotted lanternfly (SLF), an invasive insect native to east Asia, was first found in the U.S. in 2014 in Pennsylvania. It has since spread to several other states including, most recently, southern Indiana. It feeds on a wide variety of plants, including economically important species like cherry trees, apple trees, grapevines, and several hardwood trees like oaks and maples. The insects weaken trees by sucking sap from stems and branches, then they excrete a significant amount of honeydew - a sticky product of their feeding behavior that can cover surfaces on and below the tree.
Honeydew oftentimes promotes fungal and bacterial growth, which can further damage the tree and other nearby surfaces. As a planthopper, the SLF can only move relatively short distances on its own. However, it can be spread great distances and infest new areas with help from human activity. It lays egg masses on many outdoor surfaces ranging from trees, to vehicles, to camping gear. These egg masses, or the insects themselves, can then be transported elsewhere if people aren’t carefully monitoring for them. Because this is an invasive species, our native plants are more susceptible to their attacks and there are few native predators to keep the SLF population in check.
Consequently, many parts of the eastern United States where SLFs are established are overrun with the pest. Novi residents can help protect the City’s urban forest by monitoring for SLF in its various life stages - especially when traveling through areas where it is known to exist.
Follow this link for more information on SLF and find out how to report suspected sightings.