Lanternfly N. J: What to do When you Find a Spotted Lanternfly

Lanternfly N. J: What to do When you Find a Spotted Lanternfly

Have you seen black and red bugs, sporting white dots?

They’re spotted lanternflies, and they’re turning up everywhere.

The pests have spent late spring and early summer jumping through gardens and farms around New Jersey. And now, in a new stage of their evolution cycles, they’re growing wings and taking to the air to swarm trees and plants throughout the state.

The wave of lanternfly sightings this year is evidence that the invasive bugs, which are native to East Asia and first arrived in Pennsylvania in 2014, have spread to all corners of New Jersey. State authorities are worried the insects, which are not a threat to humans, could cause major damage to Garden State cash crops like grapes, hops and ornamental trees.

State authorities told NJ Advance Media last month that no significant damage to Garden State farms has been reported so far. But they do request any and all spotted lanternflies be destroyed on sight.

So how do you, a concerned citizen of New Jersey, fight back? Here are a few tips from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

1. Stomp it out

The most proven way of killing a spotted lanternfly is to squish it. A quick stomp or a swift swat is the most efficient way to deal with the problem. Though this can sometimes be tricky, as the bugs are quick! Don’t forget to log your kill in the Squishr app — a little competition can go a long way in beating back the bugs.

2. Report all sightings

Every time you see a spotted lanternfly, you should report it to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture as quickly as possible. The reports help state authorities track where the pests are concentrating, and prioritize places where state money can best be used to fight the bugs.

To report a spotted lanternfly sighting in New Jersey, reach out to the NJDA through a dedicated website, email to or by phone at 833-4BADBUG (833-422-3284.) Try to include a picture if you can.

3. Check your car

Sure, they can fly, but the main way spotted lanternflies have been able to spread so quickly is by hitchhiking. Be sure to check your vehicle often for any unwelcome passengers, especially if you traveling from or through any of the eight quarantine counties along the Delaware River — Warren, Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem.

In those counties, businesses moving regulated items like landscaping waste and outdoor household goods from those counties must obtain permits from the NJDA, among other things.

4. Scrape off the eggs

Fighting spotted lanternflies is a year-round effort. During the summer, the bugs are the prime targets, but their eggs become the target in winter and early spring.

Keep an eye out for spotted lanternfly egg masses during the cold months by looking for the brown, scab-like things on trees, fence posts, rocks or really any flat surface outdoors. If you find an egg mass, it’s not hard to crush the eggs inside. Just use a scraper or some other implement to press down hard on the thing.

5. Set some traps

Got a tree that seems to be a magnet for spotted lanternflies? Turn it into a trap for the bugs by wrapping the trunk in a sticky band, which is commonly sold in garden stores. Be sure to take measures like putting a wire or mesh cage around the trap to prevent other animals, like squirrels and birds, from being affected.

Tree bands are most effective when spotted lanternflies are still nymphs and haven’t yet grown wings, according to the NJDA.

6. Bust out the bug spray

Many common spray insecticides that kill bugs on contact have proven effective against spotted lanternflies, according to the NJDA.

But using insecticides should be done with heavy caution. Many of the chemicals are also considered highly toxic for bees, the critical ecological pieces that pollinate so many of the plants around us. Be sure to read the labels and do your research before wantonly spraying whatever stuff you have.

There are some exceptions. One way of dealing with spotted lanternfly eggs is by using horticultural oils commonly sold at garden stores, which do not typically affect other species.

The NJDA says it is currently studying alternatives to using insecticides for managing spotted lanternflies. It is possible that beneficial spiders and bugs could one day be used to control spotted lanternfly numbers without poisoning other creatures.

7. Treat the trees

In some cases, chemicals can be injected into or onto trees to make them toxic for spotted lanternflies that be trying to feed. It’s similar to how tick prevention medicine works for dogs. Property owners interested in having their trees treated should contact a qualified arborist.

The newly signed state budget includes a $500,000 allocation to the NJDA for lanternfly efforts, a chunk of money that was part of a list of “Christmas tree” items which drew criticism from budget hawks. The NJDA said the money will be spent on anti-spotted lanternfly treatment for trees in various parts of the state.

8. Ditch your tree-of-heaven

Spotted lanterflies’s preferred host is a a different invasive species, a tree known as tree-of-heaven. The NJDA strongly recommends that property owners remove any tree-of-heaven they can. Other host plants like wild grape and oriental bittersweet should also be removed if possible.