If you live in the Northeastern US, chances are you’ve encountered the spotted lanternfly, or as scientists refer to it, the Lycorma delicatula. Winged, spotted, and terribly large, these insects seem to be just about everywhere! Jumping as often as they fly, the spotted lanternflies entice many pets to run and catch them, but are they harmful to pets?
Where did the spotted lanternfly come from?
Native to China, India and Vietnam, the spotted lanternfly’s plant-hopping adaptation allowed it to successfully and rapidly spread. By hitching a ride or laying eggs on vehicles and trailers, the invasive species continues to reach new areas, making this pest hard to contain.*
Adult females are capable of laying inch-long egg masses containing 30 to 50 eggs each and are believed to lay at least 2 per season!** First detected in Pennsylvania in 2014,† the spotted lanternfly has since spread to Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and even Virginia.‡
Unfortunately, this species causes serious damage to fruit trees, grapevines, and various hardwoods due to its feeding behavior.‡ US state and local governments have ongoing programs aimed at stopping the spread of this insect and eradicating it.
Is it harmful to pets?
Spotted lanternflies can harm plants, but what about our pets? While these insects are not known to bite or sting, there is also not enough scientific research to determine whether they pose a health risk if ingested.
Pets are naturally curious and often ingest things they shouldn’t (especially when unsupervised), meaning there’s a possibility your pet will try to taste one. In an attempt to rid homes and yards of the pest, many have tried home remedies. An aluminum pan of dish soap or vinegar may seem benign, but these do-it-yourself solutions pose a danger to your pets and may even violate federal law.§
Scientists are continuing to gather data to learn more about the species to improve eradication strategies and uncover any potential health risks. The safest course of action is to keep your pet away from living or dead spotted lanternflies as well as its preferred meal – the Tree of Heaven. If your pet does ingest anything outside their normal diet, or is showing signs of injury or illness, consult with a veterinarian right away.
It’s wise to protect your dog with pet health insurance just in case. Also, stay up-to-date on the latest information and adhere to your state and local guidance regarding the spotted lanternfly. For additional resources, consult your state’s Department of Agriculture.
*Spotted Lanternfly Alert. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/PlantIndustry/Entomology/spotted_lanternfly/SpottedLanternflyAlert/Pages/default.aspx
**Spotted Lanternfly. (2019, June 20). Retrieved from https://ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/spotted-lanternfly
†Spotted Lanternfly. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.chesapeakebay.net/discover/field-guide/entry/spotted_lanternfly
‡Invasive Species Centre (n.d.). Forest Invasives. Retrieved from https://www.forestinvasives.ca/Meet-the-Species/Insects/Spotted-Lanternfly#73245-distribution
§Spotted Lanternfly Management. (2019, September 9). Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/avoid-home-remedies-to-control-spotted-lanternfly
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