Community Spotlights

How Philly’s parks are managing the Spotted Lanternfly

by Melissa Romero on June 17, 2019

A big, red X will mark the spot for certain park trees in Philly that have been designated as “trap trees” for Spotted Lanternflies, invasive insects that have made their way to Philadelphia and have the potential to greatly impact forests and agricultural crops across the region.

Spotted lanternflies are native to Asia. They’re reported to feed on more than 70 species of tree, including a variety of orchard trees, but their preferred hosts are the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), black walnut trees, and hops. They attack by piercing a tree and feeding on its sap, leaving behind an oozing trail of sticky grayish or black matter on the tree.

First discovered in Berks County in 2014, the spotted lanternfly has since made its way to other counties throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia in recent years. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has coordinated closely with the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Fairmount Park Conservancy Natural Lands team to target four Philly parks to begin to manage and curb the spread of the spotted lanternfly.

The Natural Lands team is focusing on four parks:

  • FDR Park in South Philly
  • Pleasant Hill Park in the northeast
  • Pennypack Creek Park in the northeast
  • Roxborough Reservoir in Northwest Philly

All of these sites were selected due to several factors, such as proximity to transportation hubs – so as to minimize the spotted lanternflies’ ability to “hitch a ride” to another location via a car, bus, train, or airplane.

Management efforts will include the removal of some trees, basal bark treatment of non-hazard trees, and insecticide treatment of others. “Trap trees” have been marked to receive insecticide treatment that will then kill the insect when it feeds on the tree. You’ll know it’s “trap tree” because it will be marked with a large red and circled “X.”

Spotted lanternflies prefer to host on the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Here’s how you can help efforts, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture:

  • This insect is easily moved if no one is looking. If you are in the quarantine area, please Look Before You Leave,” inspecting your vehicles, trailers, or any outdoor items before you move around or out of the quarantine is important. If possible, don’t park in tree lines and keep windows rolled up when you park your vehicle. Know the life stages of the insect and when to look for them.
  • Using the recommendations developed by Penn State Extension, take control measures on your own property. Any efforts you make in destroying the Spotted Lanternfly or its egg masses helps your property and community.
  • Report sightings of the Spotted Lanternfly.  All reports of SLF outside of the quarantine are taken seriously and will be investigated. Reports within the quarantine are registered in a database for USDA and the PA Department of Agriculture. The database is used to help determine properties for treatment. Treatment is based on location, risk, and available funds.  
  • Please join the effort to control and prevent the spread of Spotted Lanternfly.  We need everyone to protect their properties, communities, and the Commonwealth from this invasive insect that has the potential to change our landscape and quality of life.

Photo of spotted lanternfly by Richard Gardner, Bugwood.org.