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How to prepare for spotted lanternfly

June 15, 2022 -  By
Photo: arlutz73/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: arlutz73/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Located in Berks County, Pa., New Castle Lawn & Landscape of Birdsboro had a front-row seat to the emergence of spotted lanternfly in the U.S. The invasive insect was first identified in the U.S. in Berks County in 2014. Since then, researchers found populations in New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia.

New Castle worked with a research team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on efficacy studies for controlling spotted lanternfly. These efforts provided the company with invaluable information and a huge opportunity for the business.

Andy Auchenbach, senior account manager and ISA Certified Arborist, says the team at New Castle quickly realized spotted lanternfly treatments would fit into the operation’s plant health care offerings.

“That upsell on the lanternfly treatments is a super easy upsell,” he says.

Auchenbach says spotted lanternfly-infested areas will likely get calls from clients as the pest reaches the adult stage. While the pest does not feed on turf, it is a nuisance pest to ornamental plantings, Adults feed on a host of trees, including Tree-of-heaven, sugar and red maple, sycamore and black walnut trees.

Early sprays

Auchenbach says systemic applications of dinotefuran are an effective tool to control adults before egglaying. Adults tend to lay eggs in the top part of a tree canopy, which makes scouting and egg removal almost impossible. Technicians cover the first four feet of the tree with a bark spray in August in Pennsylvania to kill adults on the tree.

“The bark sprays, or if you can directly inject into the trunk of the tree, that’s the best way. If it’s a good day and the tree’s moving material, it’s a matter of hours and you’ll start seeing dead lanternfly on the bottom of the tree,” he says, although he cautions that early applications could miss the window of effectiveness.

Rick Fletcher, technical services manager for turf and ornamentals with Nufarm, says LCOs could also do an early preventive spray as the first through fourth instars of spotted lanternfly feed on new growth of a tree’s canopy. LCOs can use a systemic application on the bark of favored trees or a pyrethroid but cautions applicators to be wary of pollinators and drift and only apply contact insecticides on the edges of the canopy where there is new growth.

“A dinotefuran that is systemic works really well, because it’s in the tree instead of outside with the pollinators,” Fletcher says. “The nice thing about a soluble material dinotefuran is it moves rapidly to the edge of the canopy. For this bug, a basal bark application of a highly systemic molecule is ideal because it locates immediately to where the bug is.”

Auchenbach says now’s the time for LCOs to get the proper applicators’ licenses in spotted lanternfly-susceptible areas.

How to get ready

New Castle uses Service Autopilot to run spotted lanternfly estimates. The client provides a salesperson the diameter of the tree for treatment, and the software estimates the budget hours and cost of the job.

“We’ve treated 30 homes in a day,” he says. “Our lowest treatment is around $55 and can go up to a few hundred if you have a really big tree,” Auchenbach says. “Some of the materials or insecticides are pretty expensive, so you have to make sure that you’re covering your costs.”

Spotted lanternfly is a mobile pest in its later stages, Fletcher says. Adults can walk up to 50 meters a day. It’s important LCOs and homeowners alike understand this when making applications to kill adult spotted lanternflies.

“If you treat A property, but neighbors B and C next to you don’t treat, then the bugs can walk over,” he says. “So, it’s not that the application didn’t work, it’s that the bugs are walking over.”

Pyrethroids or carbaryl have about a one to three-week efficacy. Following that period, LCOs should make a follow-up visit to the property. Fletcher recommends a cycle of scouting, treatment, back to scouting and then another decision of treatment, depending on the pest population on the property.

Auchenbach says it’s also important to talk to your clients about how the pressure from spotted lanternfly will subside in a few years. A New Castle client with a great wooded backyard, lots of trees-of-heaven and an inground pool got so frustrated with the number of spotted lanternflies on his property that the property owner eventually sold his property.

He says contractors should advise frustrated clients, “Let’s do the treatments that we know are effective. But don’t sell your house right away or remove the infested tree. It’s a very annoying pest, but just know it will get better. If the homeowner can be patient give it a year or two and lanternfly pressure will subdue.”

Christina Herrick

About the Author:

Christina Herrick is the editor of Landscape Management magazine. Known for her immersive approach to travel from coast to coast in her previous stint as senior editor of American Fruit Grower Magazine, she uses social media (Twitter/Instagram @EditorHerrick) to share her experiences on the road with her audience. Herrick has a degree in journalism from Ohio Northern University. She can be reached at cherrick@northcoastmedia.net.

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