Spotted Lanternfly

Need to Know

  • Spotted lanternfly are an invasive insect first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014.
  • Spotted lanternfly feed on a wide variety of plants, but prefer tree of heaven, Alianthus altissima.
  • Both adults and nymphs have piercing-sucking mouthparts that they use to suck sap from plants.  They can feed directly on fruits, such as grapes damaging them.  
  • The egg masses can be easily moved by humans.
  • If you see an insect you suspect is a spotted lanternfly take a picture and collect the insect if possible.  

Description and life cycle of spotted lanternfly

Spotted lanternfly adult.  Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University,

Spotted lanternflies, Lycorma delicatula, have three stages, eggs, nymphs and the adult stage. They hatch from eggs and have 4 separate nymph stages until they molt to the adult stage.  There is only one generation per year.

Adults: Spotted lanternfly adults look a bit like pinkish-gray cicadas or very large treehoppers.  Their wings are pinkish-gray colored and covered in black spots. They have long legs that are grayish black.  Beneath the gray spotted wings there is a second pair of wings that are red, white and black. 

Depending on temperature adults would be present in Iowa from mid-July through a killing freeze. 

Eggs: Adult females lay lines of eggs on a suitable surface.  They are not picky and will lay their eggs not only on the surface of trees, but also on vehicles, camping gear, etc.  The eggs can be easily moved to new locations and start new infestations.  The female lays several lines of eggs that she covers with a protective gray wax. This makes the egg masses difficult to see on the bark of trees.  On a vehicle or other items egg masses look like a spot of mud. 

Spotted lanternfly spend the winter in the egg stage.   Egg masses would be present in Iowa from late July – the following spring.

Older spotted lanternfly nymph with the red, black and white markings.  Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

Nymphs: Spotted lanternfly nymphs have equally striking colors.  Young nymphs are black with white spots and older nymphs are red and black with white spots.  Nymphs are fond on host trees, usually on branches.  They will move quickly around the branch to avoid being seen. 

In Iowa nymphs start hatching from eggs in April and would develop throughout the early summer and be present until mid-July when they molt to the adult stage.  Nymph stages and adult stages overlap a great deal and we would expect to see nymphs as well as adults through September.


Spotted lanternfly feed on a wide rage of host plants.  In North America they are commonly reported on tree of heaven (an invasive tree), but also on valuable landscape and food crops including grapes, hops, cherries, plum, apple and black walnut.  Landscape plants most frequently infested include maple, oak, pine, poplar, sycamore, and willow. 

Younger nymphs are black wth white spots.  Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.orgCaption

In addition to consuming the sap they produce large amounts of honeydew – a polite name for the sticky excrement of sap-feeding insects.  Honeydew contains plant sugars and attracts sweet feeding insects such as wasps.  Sooty mold will also grow on honeydew covering leaves, branches and surrounding areas with a black substance.  It is not harmful to humans, but can block sunlight to leaves. 

Reporting a spotted lanternfly

If you spot an insect you think could be a spotted lanternfly in Iowa, please take a picture, collect the insect, and make note of where you are located.  Photos can be submitted through this Iowa Invasive Species Tracking website for confirmation. 

Additional Resources

Egg masses are covered in protective wax and difficult to see.  Eggs can be laid on vehicles and other objects and transported to new locations leading to new infestations.  Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ,
A cluster of adult spotter lanternfly.  Note the egg mass below the cluster.  Richard Gardner,
Last reviewed:
July 2022

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on July 25, 2022. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.