Photo: Lawrence Barringer,
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

My facebook feed has been filled in recent days with confirmed reports of Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) in Elkhart, Porter and St. Joseph counties. Sadly, it is only a matter of time before it is confirmed in Marshall County. This is the third region of the state in which this invasive pest has been found, joining the 2021 find in Switzerland County (southeast) and the 2022 find in Huntington County (northeast).

Indiana DNR

Spotted lanternfly adult
Photo: Lawrence Barringer,
Pennsylvania Department of

Spotted lanternfly is not a fly but rather a sap-feeding planthopper that originated in Asia. It was first discovered in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture tried to limit the spread of this pest, but unfortunately, it was not contained.

Spotted lanternfly nymph.
USDA-ARS Photo by Stephen Ausmus

Spotted lanternfly prefers to feed on Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive species, but it has been found on more than 103 species of plant including walnut, oak, maple, and various fruit trees. It is often found on grapevines in vineyards and can cause widespread damage. According to data provided by Penn State’s Extension, one vineyard in the United States experienced a staggering 90% reduction in yield as a result of spotted lanternflies. 

Black sooty mold growing on Tree of Heaven leaf.
Photo by Deb McCullough, MSU

Adult insects have piercing, sucking mouthparts and weaken the plants through feeding on them, which can make it difficult for the plant to survive the winter. In addition, as the immature nymphs and adults suck sap, they excrete honeydew, which coats the vegetation, sidewalks, driveways, and anything beneath the infested trees. Sugary honeydew attracts ants and wasps.  Black sooty mold that grows on the honeydew is another unwelcome side effect of Spotted lanternfly.

Locating and managing Tree of Heaven is a key aspect of dealing with Spotted lanternfly.

Tree of Heaven, the main host for Spotted lanternfly, is one of the fastest growing trees in North America. Both the common name (Tree of Heaven) and the Latin genus (Ailanthus means “sky-tree”) refer to the tree’s ability to grow vertically. It can grow anywhere from 3′ – 10′ or more a year. Mature trees generally are 60 to 80 feet tall and can be 4 to 6 feet in diameter. Tree of Heaven grows just about anywhere its seed lands, in the poorest of soils, with very little water, and even out of cracks in cement.  It also has a bad record for being allelopathic, preventing other plants from growing nearby.

Young tree of heaven growing between a sidewalk and concrete wall. Photo by Deb McCullough, MSU.

More information about Tree of Heaven and Spotted lanternfly can be found here.

Suspected finds of Spotted lanternfly should be reported to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Call 866-NO EXOTIC (866-663-9684) or email Please leave your name, contact number and detailed information about what you are reporting.

Photos are always appreciated.