Many of our supporters and friends have been asking what methods we recommend when trying to manage the invasive and damaging Spotted Lanternfly (SLF), and have voiced their concerns that some management methods may be harmful to local wildlife. So, we wanted to share current best practices and what you can do to help control SLF populations in a safe way.
You have probably heard of or seen these invasive pests along trails and in natural areas, in your backyard, and even in parking lots. They began emerging in April and will continue to emerge through the end of June, turning up virtually everywhere. Right now, they are still in their first stage of life (or instar), when they appear as tiny black insects with white spots - they will go through three more molts, each slightly different, before reaching adulthood. SLF nymphs feed on tree sap throughout the summer and since adults are harder to trap, the best time to act to control their populations is while they are still in their early life stages.
To feed on tree sap, SLF nymphs and adults crawl up tree trunks from the ground or nearby vegetation. The most effective way to trap them is with tree banding, wherein a sticky band of some kind is wrapped around the trunk of a tree, catching the insects as they move upward. These can be commercially made bands (sold online and in garden supply, landscape, and home improvement stores), or homemade bands.
The danger of these methods – most particularly of commercially made bands – is “bycatch,” which refers to trapping anything other than the species being targeted. In the case of sticky bands, this can include birds, bats, small mammals, bees, butterflies, and other important, native species.
So, it is important to use these methods in a way that is safe for all wildlife – read on for recommended techniques and precautions.
Installing Commercial Sticky Traps
Since they are made for outdoor use, commercial sticky traps are longer-lasting than homemade bands and currently, they are the most effective method for catching SLF nymphs (research into other methods is ongoing).
Cut your sticky bands into narrower strips (halves or thirds) before you begin attaching them to the tree. Narrower strips will work just as effectively, but won’t be wide enough (in most cases) to trap small mammals and birds.
Wrap bands around trees roughly four feet from the ground.
Do your best to get the band tight to the tree, attaching and securing with staples or pins. Fewer gaps between the band and the tree means less nymphs slipping underneath the band and avoiding capture.
To avoid bycatch, create a barrier between wildlife and the sticky surface of the band by wrapping chicken wire, fencing, or screening (screening is best to prevent bees and other pollinators from being trapped), around the tree and over the band. Be sure there is a gap at the bottom of the barrier so that nymphs can still climb up the tree.
Installing a Homemade Trap
There is an option for a homemade trap that we recommend for those who do not have access to commercial traps or who prefer not to use them.
Duct Tape Method
Fold a strip of duct tape in half and attach to tree as described above, with the sticky side facing outward.
Attach barrier to prevent bycatch, as described above. Remember that after rain, duct tape will lose its effectiveness in trapping nymphs and will have to be replaced.
With any of these techniques, it is important to check your sticky bands at least weekly, and preferably daily. In the event that a bird or small mammal gets stuck, call a wildlife rehabilitation center immediately and before taking any action. They will guide you through what do to keep yourself and the animal safe. See our “Report an Issue” page for local rehabilitation resources.
Helpful Links with More Information:
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture - Spotted Lanternfly information page
PennState Extension - Spotted Lanternfly Management Resources