SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Between the drought this summer and the presence of an insect known as the Spotted Lanternfly, these are dangerous times for the health of our trees and shrubs.

Because of the drought and the water restrictions, your trees may not be getting all the moisture they need. Springfield’s City Forester Alex Sherman told 22News, the first step is finding out what drought related water use restrictions exist in your city or town. With drought related soil moisture at a minimum, Sherman has a back up plan until the drought becomes history.

“A good general rule for any trees or shrubs is to mulch the ground as far as you feel comfortable, about a two to three inch layer of mulch will help insulate the soil and keep it moist and is going to help insulate the soil we have now,” said Sherman.

In addition to lack of rain, the dreaded Spotted Lanternfly poses an immediate threat to the health of your trees. These bugs are of deep concern to the Springfield City Forester, “It’s an improbable pest to keep an eye out for if you own trees and shrubs. It’s kind of an interesting looking bug that has black spots red wings, and red and black with white wings.”

Western Massachusetts residents are asked to look for both adult insects and nymphs. Adult insects are large, gray bugs, that are about one inch long with black spots and red underwings. A nymph is a younger, wingless insect that is red with black and white markings.

Where you can spot a Spotted Lanternfly

Nymphs of SLF, from left to right, youngest to oldest (photo credit: Teá Kesting-Handly)

The bug can be found congregating on sides of buildings, in or on vehicles, or on plants they prefer to attack, including tree of heaven, grape and walnut. They may attach themselves to goods being transported into the state from the following states:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

What to do if you find a Spotted Lanternfly

If you happen to come across a spotted lanternfly, MDAR encourages you to take a photo or collect the specimen and report it to the department online. Search the area for both adult insects as well. A full-size spotted lanternfly is identified as a large, gray bug, about one inch long, with black spots and red underwings. Nymphs of the insect look black with white dots and older nymphs are red with black and white spots.

Massachusetts has identified the insect in the state several times in the last few years but no evidence shows that they have become established in the state. Two dead specimens of the invasive pest were found in Milford and Norwood in eastern Massachusetts in September 2020.