Spotted lanternfly expert at Penn State offers advice on using tree bands

Amy Duke
June 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — It is quickly becoming a summertime ritual, albeit not a fun one, for homeowners living in southeastern Pennsylvania: trying to get rid of the swarms of spotted lanternflies that have taken up residence on their properties.

“Once again, people are dealing with this pest 24-7, and it’s ruining their properties and their outdoor enjoyment to boot,” said Heather Leach, spotted lanternfly extension associate in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, about the invasive planthopper, which feeds on and damages many plants, including economically important crops such as fruit trees, grapevines, hardwoods and ornamentals.

According to Leach, an effective way to control spotted lanternfly and reduce damage to trees in one’s backyard is the use of traps. Leach noted that while these traps can reduce populations on a small scale and help with monitoring for the pest in new areas beyond the current 14-county quarantine zone, these traps are unlikely to reduce the entire population of spotted lanternflies in the Northeast.

Currently, the most effective trap is a sticky band wrapped around the trunks of trees. Spotted lanternfly nymphs and adults are trapped on the sticky barrier as they crawl up the trunks to feed on newer growth higher in the tree.

“Because spotted lanternflies are trapped on the bands from the bottom up, this method (cutting sticky bands in half or in thirds) can capture the same number of insects and will help your supply of banding material last longer,”

— Heather Leach, spotted lanternfly extension associate in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences

“Sticky bands are a nonchemical method of killing, are relatively easy to install and can be a good option for residential landscapes,” said Leach, who added that the use of sticky bands is not recommended for bushes or most vines due to the narrow diameter of their trunks.

While sticky bands and tree banding glue are available commercially, some people have opted to make their own traps using duct tape wrapped backward — sticky side out — secured with pushpins. While this option is cheaper, Leach said it tends to be less effective because the tape loses its stickiness quickly, especially if it rains.

Another do-it-yourself option for sticky bands is to use 3-inch to 5-inch wide plastic or water-resistant paper, securing it with pushpins or staples and then covering it with a sticky substance such as petroleum jelly. “If using petroleum jelly, take caution not to get it on the tree, as it may discolor the bark,” Leach said.

As for the right way to install the sticky tape, Leach said the bands should be placed about 4 feet from the ground, tightly securing the band by stapling it to the tree or by using push pins.

“Spotted lanternflies are sneaky and will find any gaps left below the bands, so it’s important to make sure the bands are up against the bark,” Leach said, while conceding that bands placed on trees with deep grooves in the bark may not be as effective as those on trees with smooth bark.

Leach cautioned that there are several important things to consider when installing a sticky band, most notably how to avoid catching unintended, nontarget creatures such as bees, butterflies, birds and mammals, often referred to as “bycatch.”

She said there are several practices homeowners can use to reduce the risk of capturing these nontargets, especially the larger creatures. One option is to reduce the width of the band, thereby reducing the surface area that a nontarget animal encounters; this involves cutting commercially available bands in half or in thirds.

“Because spotted lanternflies are trapped on the bands from the bottom up, this method (cutting sticky bands in half or in thirds) can capture the same number of insects and will help your supply of banding material last longer,” Leach said.

Another option is to build a guard over the band using fencing such as chicken wire or mesh to prevent larger animals from contacting the sticky surface. More detailed instructions on these methods are outlined in the video, Spotted Lanternfly Banding, which can be found on the Penn State Extension website.

Sticky band with mesh

Covering the sticky band with fencing such as chicken wire or mesh can help prevent larger animals from contacting the sticky surface. 

IMAGE: Don Seifrit

Leach further pointed out that the petroleum jelly method is not known to capture mammals. There also is a commercially available band that uses a white fiber material to hold the inward-facing sticky side of the band away from the trunk of the tree. This creates a protected sticky surface, which reduces the potential of catching birds and other animals.

“If you decide to use sticky bands, check them at least once a week,” Leach said. “If you capture an animal, do not attempt to free it by yourself. You may put the animal and yourself in danger.”

Instead, she advises contacting a local animal-control officer. However, if a homeowner decides to save the animal, Leach suggested covering any exposed sticky material with plastic wrap or paper to reduce additional entanglement, removing the band from the tree as carefully as possible, and then taking the animal to the closest wildlife rehabilitation center, a listing of which can be found at the Pennsylvania Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators website.

Leach said that research on how to control the spotted lanternfly — including the evaluation of other traps that eliminate the risk of mammal bycatch — is taking place in both Pennsylvania and Virginia. She is hopeful that progress can be made in developing a more effective and safer trap.

More information about the spotted lanternfly, the current quarantine zone, permitting regulations and how to report a sighting can be found at the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 16, 2019