Spotted lanternfly in WNY: what you need to know

nymph of spotted lanternfly on person's fingernail
The nymph of the spotted lanternfly is about the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil. Photo courtesy iMapInvasives

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I saw a post on social media today from a gardener at the West Seneca-South Buffalo border who said she saw two adult spotted lanternflies.

However, at this time of year, Western New York probably has nymphs, an earlier stage of the spotted lanterfly, rather than adults, said Brian Eshenaur, Senior Extension Associate with Cornell University and the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program.

We probably won’t see adults in Western New York until early August.

Moths and other insects can be confused with adult spotted lanternflies, Eshenaur said, so there have been some misidentifications.

The gardener on social media said she reported her sighting. If we’re not sure what we have found, should we report it?

“Absolutely report it,” Eshenaur said, and repeated, “”Absolutely report it.”

See how to report a sighting of spotted lanternfly here.

What is spotted lanternfly?

The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive species that feeds on on 100 different plant species including grapes, hops, maple trees, and other woody plants.

It could be a problem for your landscape, but it’s a big issue for agriculture, especially in our grape-growing region, and could pose a severe threat to our natural resources.

Where is spotted lanternfly in Western New York?

Two small infestations of spotted lanternflies have been confirmed in Buffalo within a mile of each other, Eshenaur said.

That is the only place in the eight counties of Western New York where there is a confirmed infestation or report.

There has been a sighting reported in Monroe County as well as in other parts of the state. See a map here of sightings and infestations of spotted lanternfly.

What does spotted lanternfly look like now in WNY?

Now in the nymph stage, the spotted lanternfly will appear as a black crawling insect that is small–only the size of an eraser on the end of a pencil, he said. (See photo at the top of this article.)

They’re difficult to see not only because of their small size, but because they will be in brambles, raspberry bushes and on the ground walking through grass.

What should I look for?

The spotted lanternfly is easier to see as an adult, and in Western New York, spotted lanterflies would probably be adults in early August. See the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets website for more information.

While the spotted lanternfly feeds on many plants, you may see adults on the trunks of silver maple and red maple, Eshenaur said. While the adults do have polka dots on their wings, the adults are kind of camouflaged.

Their preferred tree is tree-of-heaven, which is found in many locations across New York State. You may see the adults on that tree. If you see a tree-of-heaven, please report it, too.

adult spotted lanternflies
In early August, if there are spotted lanternflies in Western New York, the insects will be adults one inch long. Photo courtesy Brian Eshenaur

Volunteers needed

Professionals and volunteers across the state are working together to monitor the spread of tree-of-heaven and spotted lanternfly.

Through the Claim a Grid Square program, dozens of volunteers conducted hundreds of surveys across the state last year and more volunteers are needed this year.

Conservation partners have identified 1-kilometer grid squares across the state where volunteer survey efforts would be most helpful. These may be close to known infestations, along major pathways, and/or near important commodities that could be harmed by the spotted lanternfly.  

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