If You Find a Spotted Lanternfly in Your Yard, This Is What to Do

Updated: Feb. 07, 2024

The spotted lanternfly is invasive—and it's taking over in the U.S. Here's how to get rid of this pest and its eggs.

Have you been seeing spotted lanternflies on your patio, in the garden or crawling on your vegetable plants? They look pretty harmless with spotted wings of tiny red and white dots but, boy, can they do some damage!

These pests are invading this summer and causing alarm far and wide as they destroy neighborhood trees, gardens, farms and orchards nationwide. Not all products that keep bugs away will kill spotted lanternflies, so here’s how to tackle them effectively.

What Is a Spotted Lanternfly?

Spotted lanternfly nymphs on a treeMediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images/Getty Images

The spotted lanternfly first appeared in the United States in 2012. This invasive insect has patches of red and black with a white band and causes problems with plants and agriculture in states like Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland. It is spreading quickly in large numbers.

Why Are Spotted Lanternflies Bad?

Swarm of Spotted Lanternfliesarlutz73/Getty Images

The spotted lanternfly causes serious damage and makes outdoor recreation unpleasant. They give off a sap, which wilts and curls leaves, causing dieback in established trees, vines, crops and other types of plants. When these insects feed, they excrete a sugary substance, called honeydew, that leads to the growth of an unsightly black mold.

Smothering, squishing and stomping are being used to battle infestations, with varying degrees of success. I know one fellow gardener who showed no mercy, employing a vacuum! Normally, killing creatures in the garden and yard goes against everything I believe in but… this is war.

What Do You Do When You Find a Spotted Lanternfly?

Squish the Bugs

Many kids will tell you that the best way to destroy an unwanted insect is to squish it. The kids are right about this method! Experts are recommending a practice of “If you see it, squish it,” according to a recent news report.

One savvy student has figured out the perfect squish to successfully eliminate the lanternfly pests. This New Jersey teen started investigating the pests under a microscope given to her by the school’s science department. She concluded that the most effective way to kill these pests is to tackle them head-on and avoid contact with the wings.

Spray with Vinegar

Vinegar is a natural insect repellent that works without damaging plants and growth in the garden. Fill a clean spray bottle with a solution of vinegar and get ready to squirt in combat. White vinegar in a spray bottle will kill lanternflies almost instantly. You can also use neem oil to eliminate these bugs on contact.

Capture in a Bottle

Create a trap with an empty plastic water bottle to capture the lanternflies. Hold the bottle over the lanternflies and they will find their way into the empty bottle. When you have a group of them trapped, place the bottle in the freezer to kill them.

Use a Shop Vac

Some people are reporting success with a shop vac and liquid soap. You can rent a machine if you don’t own one and use it to vacuum your deck, patio and garden. The liquid soap and water in the reservoir of the vacuum will help trap the lanternflies and kill them. Be sure to place the dead bugs in a sealed plastic bag for disposal.

Scrape Away the Eggs

Spotted Lanterfly Eggs On A TreeMediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images/Getty Images

Killing the eggs means getting rid of the future source of problems. This is a really important part of the battle! As fall approaches, be on the watch for spotted lanternfly egg masses. They resemble brown patches that appear on outdoor surfaces like trees, fence posts, railings, garden walls and rocks.

If you spot egg masses, you can use a credit card to scrape them into a zip-close bag with a bit of rubbing alcohol. This will kill the bugs on contact. You can also use hand sanitizer or bleach. Unfortunately, when you find a tree covered in bugs there are most likely others nearby in the area under attack. Stay vigilant!

Here’s how to get rid of other nasty garden insects.