Spotted Lanternfly Look-alikes (Not yet present in Nebraska)

Author(s): David Olson
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Spotted lanternfly adult

Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), is a new invasive species that poses one of the largest threats to American agriculture and trees in decades. Currently found in Southeast Pennsylvania and nearby regions, it has many look-alike native species that could make detection difficult. This guide will assist in the identification and possible early detection if this pest shows up in Nebraska. 

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Spotted Lanternfly Adults

Spotted lanternfly adults are usually present from late summer (August) to fall (October-November). They are distinct from other life stages of the planthopper due to the presence of pale dark-spotted wings that fold in a tent shape over the back. When the wings are extended a bright orange-red patch will be visible on the hindwing and a yellow abdomen may be seen. This pest may be found on a large variety of hosts including grapevine, fruit trees, tree-of-heaven, hardwoods, and pine. Weeping spots of sap may be present on the tree where the insect has been feeding. Commonly mistaken insects include the boxelder bug, tiger moths, cicadas, and ailanthus webworm.

Spotted Lanternfly Nymphs

Nymphs of the spotted lanternfly are smaller than the adults and may have one of two patterns depending on their growth stage (Appearing from May-August). Early nymphs will be black with small white 'polka-dots' and may even resemble spiders although a close inspection will reveal they have 6 legs. Late instar nymphs develop a red color in addition to the aforementioned pattern. Early-stage nymphs tend to be less discriminate in feeding habits, whereas later stage nymphs will tend towards tree-of-heaven and other preferred species. Common look-alikes include boxelder bugs, milkweed beetles, lady beetles, and aphids. 

Spotted Lanternfly Eggs

Eggs of the spotted lanternfly can be difficult to detect based on their appearance and will be present from (October-May). Coincidentally these also present the greatest risk of transport and introduction outside the current established range on the East Coast. New eggs will have a flat mud-like appearance after being laid and could be on any hard surface that has been outside in an infested area (tree limbs, cars, trailers, rocks, lawn furniture). Older egg cases will have this cover stripped off, revealing pod-like chambers underneath. Common look-alikes include mantis egg cases, tent caterpillar egg masses, lichen on bark, and dried mud.