Why are Dappled Lanterns so bad? Here’s the damage they’re doing in New Jersey

Their eggs began hatching in the spring and since then they have been spotted by the thousands, wreaking havoc on New Jersey’s trees and shrubs.

I’m talking about those pests, the mottled lanterns.

These insects have the potential to kill the trees they feed on, but George Hamilton, an extension pest management specialist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, said he hasn’t really seen that happen with mature trees in New Jersey. He has. however, saw young trees being attacked and killed by Mottled Lanterns.

There have been cases of vine deaths in Pennsylvania vineyards linked to feeding due to mottled lanterns, but here in New Jersey that has yet to be seen, Hamilton said.

However, repeated infestations have the potential to weaken and kill plants and trees over time in the Garden State.

The Lantern Invasion

AP Photo

How Do Spotted Lanternflies Kill New Jersey Trees and Shrubs?

Mottled lanterns feed on trees and plant sap and during this time they draw fluids from trees.

Since the liquid is low in the nutrients they need, the insects must feed on and eliminate large amounts of material that they cannot actually process.

They must excrete a lot of liquid while they feed. This liquid is a sugary substance known as honeydew. It gets on surfaces, on the lower leaves of trees and on plants under trees, and this sweet substance is attracted to what is called sooty mold.

It is a black mold that grows and accumulates. When this happens, the plant matter turns black. This interferes with photosynthesis which can injure understory plants under the trees that Mottled Lanterns feed on.

Spotted lantern egg masses (New Jersey Department of Agriculture)

Spotted lantern egg masses (New Jersey Department of Agriculture)

Are the Dappled Lanterns done invading and wiping out New Jersey?

Not quite, Hamilton said.

Female Mottled Lanterns will lay their eggs during the month of October. So that means the invasive pests will be around until Mother Nature delivers a good hard freeze. It will kill the adults, he says.

If frost comes early, there will likely be less egg laying than there would be if frost comes later in October or early November, Hamilton said.

Each egg mass contains at least 30 eggs, he added. You can’t miss them on the trees. The fuzzy mass is light gray in color. The mass then darkens and turns into a brown or dark gray color.

New Jersey residents are encouraged to trample and crush adults when they see them.

Spotted lanternfly (NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

Spotted lanternfly (NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

What should we do if we come across a mottled lantern egg mass on a tree?

Hamilton said do nothing at this time. At least not before the first frosts.

“If you want to do something about the egg masses you can find on the trees and shrubs on your property, you might as well wait until it gets cold enough to kill all the adults. That way you won’t have to do it multiple times,” Hamilton said.

But when it’s time to get rid of the egg masses, just scrape them off the tree. Residents have until mid-April to scrape egg masses from trees before the eggs begin to hatch, he said.

Circular traps were used to get rid of adult Lanterns. They attract large numbers of Mottled Lanterns.

“We have a graduate student in our department. She caught I think 6,000 with these traps in her search,” Hamilton said.

Traps can be set on trees on a residential property. It’s simple. He said the spotted lanternflies crawl in and can’t get out. Empty the trap when it’s full and set it back to catch more.

So, until the first hard frost of the season arrives, continue to trample, crush, crush, and trample the adults as you encounter them.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at [email protected]

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