If You Find a Spotted Lanternfly in Your Yard, This Is What to Do

The spotted lanternfly is invasive and it's taking over in the U.S. Here's how to get rid of this pest and its eggs.

Have you seen spotted lanternflies on your patio, in the garden or crawling on your vegetable plants? They look pretty harmless with their spotted wings of tiny red and white dots. But boy, can they do some damage!

These pests are invading this summer and causing alarm far and wide as they go after neighborhood trees, gardens, farms and orchards nationwide. Not all products that keep bugs away will kill spotted lanternflies, so here’s how to tackle them effectively.

Spotted lanternfly nymphs on a tree

What Is a Spotted Lanternfly?

The spotted lanternfly first appeared in the U.S. in 2012. This invasive insect attacks plants and agriculture in states like Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland, and it’s spreading quickly in large numbers.

Swarm of Spotted Lanternflies

Why Are Spotted Lanternflies Bad?

The spotted lanternfly makes outdoor recreation unpleasant. It gives off a sap that wilts and curls leaves, causing dieback in established trees, vines, crops and other plants. When these insects feed, they excrete a sugary substance called honeydew that leads to the growth of an unsightly black mold.

Smothering, squishing and stomping these pests offer varying degrees of success. I know one fellow gardener who showed no mercy, employing a vacuum! Normally, killing creatures in the garden and yard goes against everything I believe in. But … this is war.

What Do You Do When You Find a Spotted Lanternfly?

Squish the bugs

Many kids will tell you squishing an unwanted insect is the best way to kill it. The kids are right! Experts recommend an “If you see it, squish it,” approach, according to a recent ABC News report.

One savvy student figured out the perfect squish. This New Jersey teen investigated the pests under a microscope she got from her school’s science department. She concluded it’s most effective to step on the head and avoid the wings.

Spray with vinegar

Vinegar, a natural insect repellent, works without damaging plants and growth in the garden. White vinegar in a spray bottle will kill lanternflies almost instantly. You can also use neem oil to eliminate these bugs on contact.

Capture in a bottle

Trap the lanternflies in an empty plastic water bottle. Hold the bottle over the lanternflies and they’ll find their way in. When you’ve captured enough of them, place the bottle in the freezer to kill them.

Use a shop vac

Some people report success with a shop vac and liquid soap. The soap and water in the reservoir will help trap the lanternflies and kill them. Be sure to dispose of the dead bugs in a sealed plastic bag.

Spotted Lanterfly Eggs On A Tree

Scrape away the eggs

Killing the eggs means getting rid of the future source of problems. This is a really important part of the battle!

As fall approaches, be on the watch for spotted lanternfly egg masses. They resemble brown patches on outdoor surfaces like trees, fence posts, railings, garden walls and rocks.

If you spot egg masses, use a credit card to scrape them into a zip-close bag with a little rubbing alcohol. This will kill the bugs on contact. You can also try hand sanitizer or bleach.

Unfortunately, when you find a tree covered in bugs, there are most likely others nearby in the area. Stay vigilant!

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Originally Published on Taste of Home

Alice Knisley Matthias
Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, family, education, and garden. Her work appears in The New York Times, Washington Post, Food Network, Delish, The Kitchn and Parade. Her book about healthy kid snacks is published by Scholastic. Other work includes Woman's Day, Redbook, Highlights for Children, Boys' Life, Kids Discover and America's Test Kitchen Cook's Country Cookbook.