top of page

Invasion Alert?

Agriculturalists throughout South Carolina are on the lookout for an invader poised to breach the state's borders: the Spotted Lantern Fly (Lycoma delicatula). This tiny but destructive insect was first detected in Pennsylvania a decade ago, probably having arrived with hardscaping materials imported from Asia by one of that state's landscaping businesses. A voracious eater of leaves and bark, the lantern fly is now widespread on the eastern seaboard, including all of New England and south to Virginia, and has recently been found in North Carolina. It poses such a threat to vineyards, fruit orchards and cash crops that "if you see it, squash it" campaigns are common throughout the eastern United States.

Lantern fly eggs hatch in the spring

The lantern fly has not yet been detected in South Carolina, but Clemson's Department of Plant Industry expects it's only a matter of time before the insect will have an effect on South Carolina's peach fields and the state's fledgling viticulture efforts. It's especially worrisome at this time of year, when larva begin hatching. By mid-summer, they've reached the adult stage when their destructive foraging becomes most noticeable. The sap the insects excrete while dining on the bark of fruit trees, grape vines and hardwoods like walnut, birch and maple causes a black mold to form on leaves, inhibiting photosynthesis and attracting bees and wasps with its high sugar content.

The lantern fly isn't actually a fly, but a plant hopper favoring as a host another invasive species, the tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), widespread especially in the South. One method to control lantern fly populations is to destroy any such trees near planted fields. A variety of insecticides can prove temporarily effective, and some farmers have fought back with yet another non-native insect, the Praying Mantis, which feeds on lantern flies.

Although South Carolina remains free so far of the bugs, Clemson and the state's agriculture department urge residents to be on the lookout and report any sightings. You can find more information here about the insects and how to report them.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page