October Species Spotlight- The Emerging Invasive Spotted Lanternfly and the Native Black Walnut Tree

October 14, 2020

By Kaitlyn Skees, Sophomore in the SUNY New Paltz English Department

This fall is a good time to enjoy the outdoors; however, this season is an important time to be on the lookout for the newest invasive species to hit New York State, the spotted Lanternfly, and taking the a moment to appreciate the rich history and fascinating biology of our native Black Walnut tree.


The Spotted Lanternfly:

The spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), and its origin story in particular, is quite interesting. Originally from Asia, it found its way to the United States in 2014 when it was first discovered in Pennsylvania, and later several other states on the east coast. Unfortunately, as of this year, the insect has been observed in New York State, primarily in Staten Island. However, we need to be vigilant and report any sighting of this insect to help stop the spread. We hope to help you understand how to recognize the pest and why it is crucial we stop it in its tracks. Now, while the spotted lanternfly may look like another bug that one may see outside, it is actually a lot more important than one may think.

This invasive species causes quite a lot of trouble for a lot of people. One problem with the spotted lanternfly is that it can cause a great amount of damage to plants, especially trees and vines, including economically important crops such as apple trees and grape vines. What the spotted lanternfly will do is it will drink the sap from many trees. At first mention, it does not sound too serious because it feels like thousands of animals do this.

With spotted lanternflies, however, the immense number of spotted lanternflies doing this at a time or and the amount of sap that they take from the tree can often leave the tree susceptible to further damage from other sources such as disease, fungus, drought, and other insect damage.

Spotted lanternflies are also known to be associated with creating a lot of honeydew (a sugary sticky liquid extracted by sap sucking insects), which causes personal property and economic damages. Personally, the large amounts of honeydew can make it difficult for people that live in areas where there are a lot of spotted lanternflies to do anything without interacting with honeydew. The amount of honeydew will also cause other insects, such as bees and wasps, to gather in those areas, which makes things even more difficult for people.

Economically, the amount of honeydew and the molds that grow as a result interferes with ability for certain fruit to grow; other industries, such as timber, suffer due to the effects that the spotted lanternfly has on trees.

There are a lot of efforts being made to lessen the problem that the spotted lanternfly is causing, including the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. However, there is a lot that you can do as well. Spotted lanternflies can spread by laying their eggs in the fall on different surfaces that are exposed to the outdoors and transported to another area, so it is beneficial to check these exposed surfaces for eggs. This includes not only timber, and saplings, but also rocks, bricks, and even vehicles.

Another important thing is to understand the lifecycle of the spotted lanternfly and know what its appearance looks like, so you will know if you do see one. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the spotted lanternfly adults will begin to appear in July and appear to have gray wings with black spots at the top and red with black spots and dark with a lighter colored stripe.

In addition, they lay egg masses that are smooth with a brown-gray color. Then, prior to becoming adults, they have four instar stages, the first three of which appear black with white spots which can be found May through July feeding on herbaceous plants, and then turn red and black in the fourth instar phase from July through September.

The spotted lanternfly, while having an intriguing origin story, is one insect that can cause a lot of trouble for both people and industries due to its status as an invasive species and the destruction of our economically valuable crops. For more information on the Spotted Lantern Fly, how to identify it, and how to report a suspected sighting, please check out the NYSDEC website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/113303.html.


The Eastern American Black Walnut:

This native species has a very old and compelling tale. The Eastern American Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is native to North America and has had many uses for people throughout the history of North America and continues to be an important resource today.

The black walnut is extremely sought after as lumber because of the importance of its wood. This tree has been used for many things due to the unique rich color and strong nature of the wood. Wood Lumber from the black walnut can be used for things such as cabinets and furniture, and historically been used as fence posts and shingles.

The black walnut is also a very interesting tree because it is also a food source. The black walnut grows nuts that are a few inches in diameter. These nuts are perfect for harvesting and are often used in soups, stews, and baking; interestingly, it can even be used as being a topping for dairy products.

If you want to harvest your own walnuts you are in luck as they are ready this time of year! The nuts that you would be collecting will fall to the ground between August and October; it is also important to collect the nuts soon after they fall, since the fallen nuts can be detrimental to the grass if left around- more on that later.

  • Remove the outer husks, while wearing protective gloves or something, since the dark tannins in the husks can stain your fingers for weeks.
  • Remove the walnuts from the husks
  • Dry the walnut theme for a few weeks, until you ultimately decide to break the shell and get to the meat inside.

Black walnuts can be very large trees, which does provide a lot of shady foliage, and a very extensive root system with a built in defense system. This root system helps protect the tree by inhibiting other species vying for the same resources as it releases a toxic substance called juglone into the soil. This substance harms other sensitive plant’s roots when they come into contact with the black walnut’s roots. This type of natural chemical warfare helps the black walnut tree thrive.

The black walnut is an interesting tree because its resilient nature extends from the wood and encompasses the entire biologic nature of the tree.



“Black Walnut.” Black Walnut Tree on the Tree Guide at Arborday.org,


Lohmiller, George, and Becky Lohmiller. “Black Walnut Trees.” Old Farmer’s Almanac, 19 Aug. 2020,

www.almanac.com/black-walnut-trees?fbclid=IwAR2bj0Hmxg_J8UGJewgQGs80uVJkALnJu6a _tevYaCT71Q2IrTbX3G3Qa_A.

“Spotted Lanternfly.” Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,


“Spotted Lanternfly.” Spotted Lanternfly – NYS Dept. of Environmental

Conservation, www.dec.ny.gov/animals/113303.html.