Spot the Spotted Lanternfly

Emma Costantino
Outreach Coordinator
North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area

Michigan’s trees are no stranger to invasive insects, like the emerald ash borer and the spongy moth. Unfortunately, there is another pest that may soon arrive in the state: the spotted lanternfly. This insect has not yet been found in Michigan, but is currently on the state watch list. Michiganders are encouraged to be on the lookout for this colorful pest.

The adult spotted lanternfly is about one inch long. It has a yellow body lined with thick black stripes. The forewings of the spotted lanternfly are brown and covered in black spots. When extended, they reveal red, white, and black colored hind wings. Nymphs, or juvenile lanternflies, are black with white spots. As they mature, the nymphs turn red.

Unlike their eye-catching parents, spotted lanternfly egg masses are brown or light gray in color and resemble clumps of mud. The female spotted lanternfly will lay eggs on almost any smooth surface, including vehicles and outdoor equipment. This allows the insect to easily be transported to new locations.

Spotted lanternflies feed by sucking on the sap from plant stems. They will feed on a variety of trees, however they prefer tree-of-heaven, another invasive species. While feeding, the spotted lanternfly excretes a sugary substance called honeydew. This attracts other pests, like ants. It also results in sooty mold. While not harmful to people, sooty mold is visually unappealing because it looks like a layer of black soot on plants, patio furniture or anything else found beneath a tree that the spotted lanternfly has fed on.

If the spotted lanternfly were to come to Michigan, it may be drawn towards areas with tree-of-heaven before moving to feed on other plants. Tree-of-heaven was a popular landscaping tree and can often be found in urban environments. This tree has leaves similar to the native sumac. One of the easiest ways to identify tree-of-heaven is by the peanut-butter smell it produces when its leaves are crushed.

Michiganders, especially those who have tree-of-heaven growing on their property, are encouraged to be on the lookout for spotted lanternfly. If you believe you have found spotted lanternfly, try to catch it or take a photo and send it to Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

For more information or for assistance identifying tree-of-heaven on your property, contact the North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (NCCISMA) by visiting, or 231-429-5072 or email Vicki Sawicki (

Adult spotted lanternfly. Photo credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

Spotted Lanternflies Feeding on a Tree. Photo Credit: Richard Gardner,

Juvenile spotted lanternfly (Nymph). Photo Credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,