How To Kill & Get Rid Of Spotted Lanternfly (Quickly)

Spotted lanternfly in the grass

Many people want to know how to get rid of spotted lanternflies because this is an insect that can truly wreak havoc. They do an astounding amount of damage each year and are a major headache to both homeowners and agriculture professionals.

This guide will teach you how to get rid of spotted lanternflies and kill them effectively.

What Are Spotted Lanternflies?

The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that’s only recently become a pest in the United States. It’s native to China and other East Asian countries. However, it was first spotted stateside in 2014. Since then, this species has spread rapidly throughout several regions.

A spotted lanternfly with open wings

At first glance, the spotted lanternfly looks like a beautiful butterfly. Because so few people are familiar with its invasive nature, most take a moment to appreciate its distinct appearance and move on. These bugs take on a few different changes throughout the year, but adults typically develop vivid red coloration underneath their spotted wings.

Even as nymphs, these bugs are pretty eye-catching thanks to the high-contrast white spots on their black body.

Contrary to what their appearance would lead you to believe, spotted lanternflies aren’t moths or flies. They are a type of planthopper species and belong to the same order of insects as cicadas and aphids.

Why They’re A Problem

Spotted lanternflies might look whimsical and fun, but these creatures are anything but innocent. They’re an invasive species that continues to wreak havoc on many industries. Estimates say that they cause billions of dollars in damage each year, which is why so many people are eager to get rid of spotted lanternflies.

These bugs feed on a wide variety of plants. Adults are a little more selective in their eating habits, consuming only a handful of different tree cultivars. Some of the adult favorites include the tree of heaven and willows. However, nymphs will eat everything from cash crops to ornamental plants.

A group of spotted lanternflies causing damage to a tree

In the United States and beyond, spotted lanternflies have a reputation for impacting agricultural operations. They eat grapes and hops, which affects the wine industry. The pests will also feed on fruiting trees, vegetable plants, vines, and more.

Quick Tip: Not even ornamental trees are off the table. As a result, these bugs create a ripple effect that puts a dent in everything from logging to Christmas tree sales.

There are a couple of ways that spotted lanternflies cause trouble. First, they directly pierce trees and plants to feed on sap. This act deprives the tree of valuable nutrients and increases the risk of disease.

Host trees can experience a slew of issues due to invasive flies. Leaves start to wilt as individual branches die off. What’s worse, however, is the side-effects of the bug’s feeding.

You’ll notice sap pouring out of the piercing wounds. The sap ends up attracting ants, wasps, and other hungry insects that will eventually spread to other plants. Not only that, but the fluid often develops fungus that negatively impacts the tree’s health even more.

Spotted lanternflies are bad news for any plant they decide to eat. It doesn’t take long for trees to succumb to illness and die off. However, the trouble they cause is only the start, as these bugs can start a snowball effect of destruction that only gets worse.

How To Get Rid Of Spotted Lanternflies

It’s important to know how to get rid of spotted lanternflies if you want to keep your trees safe. To control the spotted lanternfly population, you have to be proactive and vigilant. As an invasive species, natural predators and organic pest control methods don’t apply.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to kill spotted lanternflies and prevent these bugs from wreaking havoc on your property.

1. Squash Or Vacuum Them

Here’s the simplest way to get rid of spotted lanternflies!

When you see one, squash it with a fly swatter (or whatever object you have at your disposal)! Don’t be afraid to take a few good swings. While they are powerful jumpers, lanternflies do lose energy.

Continuing to chase these bugs around will tire them out, giving you ample opportunity to kill them.

If you prefer a more hands-off approach to killing spotted lanternflies, try vacuuming them up. Any vacuum will work, but shop vacs are the most effective. They don’t have too many intricate parts, allowing you to suck up as many as you can in one go.

Quick Tip: To ensure that they die, add some water and dish soap to the vacuum reservoir. That way, the spotted lanternflies will be killed as you continue to collect more.

2. Spray Them With An Insecticide

Insecticide sprays and insecticidal soaps do an excellent job of killing spotted lanternflies on the spot.

There’s no shortage of products on the market to try. We recommend going with a gentler product that’s safe on plants. Some harsh chemicals can damage trees just as much as the lanternfly.

Once you choose the right product, put it in a mister or spray bottle. Apply it directly to spotted lanternflies that you see. Coat the wings to prevent them from flying away.

You can also spray the insecticide on potential host trees. Doing so increases the chances that the bug will interact with the poison and die. This is one of the best ways to get rid of spotted lanternflies because it’s simple, yet effective.

3. Use Sticky Traps & Tape

Spotted lanternflies have a pretty interesting life cycle. As mentioned earlier, nymphs tend to do the most damage. However, they’re unable to move around from one host tree to the next.

In most cases, nymphs will continually feed on a single tree as they go through development towards adulthood. They’ll source nutrients from the tree, fall down, and climb back up again!

You can use that constant back and forth to your advantage.

Try wrapping the bottom portion of the affected tree in sticky traps and tapes. Then, physically knock those nymphs and adult bugs off!

When you do this, they’ll fall to the ground and have no choice but to climb back up the tree. As they attempt to climb, the bugs get stuck on those traps and eventually die from starvation. If you’re looking for a hands-off way to get rid of spotted lanternflies, this is a great choice.

Quick Tip: Make sure to exercise some caution here. The sticky traps aren’t selective. As a result, they can harm other wildlife, too. It’s a good idea to set up some barriers around the tree for good measure.

4. Plant Milkweed

Milkweed is a notoriously poisonous plant for insects.

However, spotted lanternflies aren’t fully aware of the plant’s dangers like other bugs. Milkweed plants aren’t prevalent in the bug’s native lands. They don’t have any instincts to avoid it!

In fact, spotted lanternflies seem to gravitate towards milkweed plants. They eat the sap as if it were another host tree. However, the poison slows them down and eventually kills them.

To get rid of spotted lanternflies, consider planting more milkweed plants around your property! They can work wonders to eliminate existing insects. Plus, they might even attract beneficial pollinators like monarch butterflies!

5. Spray Some Vinegar

You can’t go wrong when it comes to using vinegar to get rid of spotted lanternflies.

Spotted lanternflies hate the stuff, as it has a pungent odor. Not only that but spraying the vinegar directly onto the fly will kill them.

Make a homemade spotted lanternfly spray that’s equal parts water and vinegar. Then, spray it on any flies you see. It’s a good idea to use it as a deterrent solution as well.

Quick Tip: You can also apply the homemade spray near plants you want to protect. Just make sure that the acidity won’t harm the plant itself.

6. Try Some Neem Oil

Neem oil is an all-natural substance that comes from the seeds of the neem tree. You’ve probably heard about gardeners using it to keep bugs away. Some like to use it for medicinal purposes as well.

If you have some neem oil on hand, you can also use it as an effective spotted lanternfly killer!

This oil doesn’t kill this invasive bug immediately and it takes a lot longer to work than insecticides. However, it can hinder their ability to eat. Before long, the lanternfly will starve to death.

The best way to use neem oil to kill spotted lanternflies is to create a diluted solution. In a gallon sprayer full of water, add about four teaspoons of neem oil and two teaspoons of dish soap. Mix everything up and start spraying!

7. Spray Essential Oils

If you don’t have neem oil nearby, you can use essential oils.

Aromatic essential oils like lavender, rosemary, peppermint, spearmint, and eucalyptus are best. These oils work to throw off the fly’s senses, acting as an effective deterrent to get rid of spotted lanternflies. And it’s not just spotted lanternflies that hate the stuff. Other common garden pests detest the smell as well.

To make a homemade spotted lanternfly spray, add a few drops to some clean water and spray around potential host plants. Essential oils are safe and natural, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the ill effects that come with chemical-based sprays. 

8. Remove The Affected Trees

If all else fails, you can remove the affected trees. This is a last-ditch effort that you should only consider if no other pest control methods are working.

Eliminating host trees will prevent the spread of future spotted lanternflies. Removing the cultivars that adult flies eat is your best course of action. Mature flies use willows and tree of heaven plants to lay eggs for future generations to thrive.

Getting rid of those trees will prevent proliferation and can kill a significant amount of the existing spotted lanternfly population as well.

The Importance Of Finding Eggs And Removing Them

The best way to get rid of a spotted lanternfly infestation is to remove the eggs.

These bugs have a long life cycle that usually starts in the late spring. The nymphs hatch and go through four stages of growth before maturing in the middle of the summer.

Adults then mate and lay eggs in the summer and fall. Eggs overwinter and don’t hatch until the following spring. Adults die shortly after laying eggs, so there are several months where you won’t see any spotted lanternflies.

However, the eggs are lying dormant and waiting to restart the cycle again! Eliminating the eggs in the interim will help you get a head start on tackling this pest issue.

Adult flies lay eggs in clusters. They’re brown and look like tiny, one-inch seeds. Typically, they’re covered in a sticky mud-like substance so that they stick to surfaces.

Look at tree trunks, patios, and furniture. Adults lay eggs on any hard surface, so you can find them all over the place.

When you spot them, scrape the eggs off and dunk them in some hand sanitizer or alcohol to kill them. Then, put the dead eggs into a sealed plastic bag and dispose of them accordingly.

Closing Thoughts

Now that we’ve taught you how to get rid of spotted lanternflies, we highly encourage you to put these methods into practice. These insects can cause a lot of damage when left to their own devices.

If you have questions about this bug or different ways to kill them, send us a message through our contact page. We’re happy to chime in and give you some feedback.

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