Tree traps best way to combat invasive spotted lanternfly, local expert says

Written by on July 29, 2020

Tree traps best way to combat invasive spotted lanternfly, local expert says 

By Megan Frank

July 29, 2020

Pennsylvanians have been asked to kill the invasive spotted lanternfly whenever they spot the bug. Still, it’s not always easy to catch a critter that hops in its nymph stage, and flies as a winged adult. WLVR’s Megan Frank reports.

Entomologists say the spotted lanterfly population has exploded this summer around southeastern Pennsylvania, and its proliferation is troublesome. 

Each year, millions of dollars worth of Pennsylvania’s agriculture is destroyed by the pest. Spotted lanternflies secrete a sticky substance known as honeydew, which causes mold growth that can kill plants and trees. 

Emelie Swackhamer is a horticulture educator for Penn State Extension in Collegeville. She recommends tree traps.

“There are many different ways to trap a spotted lanternfly. The reason that this method works is because when they’re feeding on the tree canopy, the wind will blow them out of the trees, and they fall onto the ground, and they climb up,” said Swackhamer.

A homemade trap can be made with a net, the neck of a milk jug and a plastic bag to collect the bugs. 

CATCH AND KILL

With no natural enemies, Pennsylvania’s crops and forests have been like a buffet for the bug. That’s why Pennsylvanians have been asked to kill the invasive spotted lanternfly whenever they spot the insect. Still, it’s not always easy to catch a critter that hops in its nymph stage, and flies as a winged adult.

Emelie Swackhamer, horticulture educator for Penn State Extension in Collegeville, says anyone can make a spotted lanternfly trap. Tree traps catch the critters in their nymph or infant stage and will catch some winged adults, too.

Here’s a list of materials you’ll need to make a tree trap:

  • 1 rectangle of window screen approximately 30″ x 23″ (plastic-coated screen works better than wire screen). For this demonstration, we used screening left over from a pop-up canopy. Adjust the screen size to fit your tree. The idea is to have the opening of the skirt go around the trunk as far as possible to get the SLF to enter the trap.
  • 1 piece of wood approximately 11″ x 1′ x 0.5″ (cut from wooden lath, a yardstick or even two paint stirrers duct-taped together can work)
  • 1 piece of wood approximately 18″ x 1″ x 0.5″
  • 32″ of sturdy but bendable wire (you can cut this from a thin coat hanger)
  • 2 tops of plastic milk jugs
  • 1 one-gallon zip-type bag (with more for replacement as the bags fill up)
  • Weather-proof, strong duct tape
  • Staple gun with short staples (to attach the screening to the wooden strips)
  • Office stapler (to tack the screening together)
  • Hot glue gun
  • 1 zip tie (to attach the zip type bag to the top of the trap)
  • 1 piece of twine (to tie the top of the trap to the tree)
  • A couple of push pins or a staple gun (to attach the bottom of the screening to the tree)

Click here for full assembly instructions from Penn State Extension.

STICKY ADVICE

If you use sticky traps to catch spotted lanternflies, Swackhamer says you’ll need to protect other wildlife from the tape.

“Nobody wants to come out and find that other creatures have been caught, like a bird,” explained Swackhamer. “So, if you use the sticky trap method, include some type of netting or chicken wire to protect other wildlife from getting near it.”

She says spraying anything other than USDA certified insecticide on or near the bugs in not permitted in Pennsylvania.

BUG QUARANTINE

A myriad of Pennsylvania counties are under a spotted lanternfly quarantine. That means any items intended to be moved, whether within or outside the quarantine, must be inspected for eggs, nymphs or adult lanternfly, which must then be removed and destroyed before traveling. The quarantine is in effect throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia.

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