Watch Out for Spotted Lanternflies

Spotted Lanternfly
Spotted Lanternfly (Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

The spotted lanternfly is one beautiful bug. With its wings outspread, an adult resembles an abstract painting, sporting geometric splotches of red, yellow, black and white. Unfortunately, it’s also a very destructive bug — which has led to an all-out effort to prevent it from infesting New York State.

And YOU can support that effort.

Native to China, Vietnam and other parts of Asia, Lycorma delicatula immigrated to the U.S. in 2014, arriving on shipments of stone countertops delivered to Berks County, Pennsylvania. Since then, they have spread into New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Single specimens of adults or egg masses also have been found in 15 New York counties, including Albany, Orange, Ulster and Westchester.

Spotted Lanternfly (Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

What’s the big to-do? While adult spotted lanternflies feed primarily on ailanthus, also known as tree-of-heaven and itself an invasive species, nymphs feast on some 70 species of plants, including grape vines; fruit trees like apple, plum, cherry and peach; as well as hardwoods such as maples, sycamores and poplars. They suck the sap, stressing the plants and making them more vulnerable to other harmful insects and diseases. In addition, the insects secrete a sticky substance, known as “honeydew,” which attracts molds that limit the growth and yield of fruit trees.   

Vineyards in Berks County have been devastated by spotted lanternflies. In New York, they pose a direct threat to the state’s grape and apple harvests, which combine to generate $358 million annually, as well as the state’s $8.8-billion forest products industry.

How you can help keep spotted lanternflies out of N.Y.

Step 1: Be on the lookout

Spotted lanternflies have a distinctive appearance, unlike any other local insects, so if you see one, you’ll know what it is — provided you know what to look for. To get started, check out these illustrated ID tips.

Spotted Lanternfly Eggs (Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

Step 2: Check for hitchhikers

Despite their name, spotted lanternflies are not very good fliers — they much prefer “hitchhiking.” New York State has established checkpoints along main transportation corridors and in cities and rail yards to search for insects coming in on commercial shipments from infested areas. If you travel to a place where spotted lanternflies are a problem — this map shows confirmed locations — check your car or any outdoor equipment for adults, nymphs or egg masses before returning home.

Immature Spotted Lanternflies (Photo: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,

Step 3: Notify NYS

Finally, if you think you see a spotted lanternfly in New York, take some photos and either email them — with the location — to or fill out this online form. Someone will get in touch with you shortly. If possible, collect a specimen and place it in alcohol or the freezer.

With a little effort, combined with some luck, we can limit the spread of these pests into the Hudson Valley and the rest of N.Y.

Solving a Knotty Knotweed Problem

Japanese Knotweed

“When I first started working here, I didn’t realize this could be such a beautiful view,” says Scenic Hudson Parks and Trails Manager Carley Kiernan. She’s referring to a place along the Red Trail at our Madam Brett Park in Beacon. Benches there invite walkers to stop and admire the broad expanse of Fishkill Marsh. Indeed, it’s a stunning sight, all shimmering water and swaying grasses.

What made it impossible for Carley to appreciate this vista — and what keeps our park maintenance workers on their toes to preserve it? Japanese knotweed, one of the Hudson Valley’s peskiest invasive (non-native) plants.

Japanese knotweed at Madam Brett Park

A member of the buckwheat family and native (as its name implies) to Asia, Reynoutria japonica arrived in the U.S. in the late 1800s, imported to adorn gardens. In pretty short order, the plant signaled it had no intention of remaining within well-tended beds. By the 1930s, it was deemed a pest.

In its rapid march across the landscape, it crowds out native species, disrupts wildlife habitat and, as in the case of Madam Brett Park, obscures beautiful views.

In 2014, Japanese knotweed and its equally harmful invasive cousins giant knotweed (Reynoutria sachalinensis) and Bohemian knotweed (Fallopia ×bohemica) received the dubious distinction of being added to New York’s list of Prohibited and Regulated Plants, meaning it’s illegal to “knowingly possess them with the intent to sell, import, purchase, transport, introduce or propagate.”

This fast-growing invasive plant blocks scenic views of Fishkill Marsh from the park

In addition to spreading far and fast and thriving in just about any kind of soil and climate conditions, Japanese knotweed defies eradication. Its bamboo-like shoots grow up to 15 feet tall. Researchers estimate the root system of a single plant can span up to 32,000 square feet—more than half a football field. Short of covering an area overrun with Japanese  knotweed with unsightly black plastic and leaving it until the roots die—which can take up to 5 years—the only other, albeit temporary, remedy is to cut the plants back. At Madam Brett Park, Carley and her crew have to trim the marsh-side patch of Japanese knotweed “a couple of times a month” during growing season.

Could there be an easier, more effective and less labor-intensive solution? Maybe.

Mesh to the Rescue

Earlier this year, Scenic Hudson Land Stewardship Coordinator Dan Smith read an article shared by the Lower Hudson Partnership for Invasive Species Management — or PRISM — a collective of environmental groups (including Scenic Hudson) working to limit the toll invasive species are having on the region’s biodiversity and ecosystems. Written by a state biologist in Vermont, the article recounted her adoption of a new, experimental technique for combatting Japanese knotweed. “I thought it was a really interesting idea, and I wanted to try it,” says Dan.

The new procedure for removing the park’s knotweed began by trimming it

Developed in England, where Japanese knotweed cracks roads and building foundations, the simple procedure involves cutting a patch of the plant to the ground and covering it with a metal wire mesh. The hope is that stems of new plants growing through the mesh will be girdled, or strangled, causing them to die. The plant will try to put up new stems, with similar results, until it uses up the store of energy in its roots. At that point, if the process works, no further growth should occur. End of Japanese knotweed.

Then a wire mesh was installed over it

Dan secured Carley’s eager cooperation to test the technique. (“I’m always trying to find ways where I can work together with Dan and the natural resources team,” she says.) In June, he staked down mesh over a 400-square-foot plot of Japanese knotweed at our Esopus Meadows Preserve, while Student Conservation Association interns Carly Shenold and Holly Clark did the same over a slightly smaller plot at Madam Brett Park.  It’s far too early to tell how the project will pan out — it could take years to see results. “It’s definitely trial and error. We don’t know what will happen,” Carley admits.

If the procedure works, stems growing through the mesh should be strangled by it

If it does prove successful, the procedure will provide numerous benefits. “Instead of rigorous maintenance, if we go to the source of the problem and remove the invasive, it will be good for the ecology of the land and good for us, as we don’t have to keep trimming it back,” says Carley. The mesh doesn’t completely cover the soil, as plastic does, so Dan hopes the seeds of native plants can be sown and start to establish while the Japanese knotweed perishes. He plans to test this out in the fall.

One thing for sure, the mesh is less obtrusive. “Visually, it’s going to be much nicer than seeing 400 feet of black tarp,” Dan says.

Stay tuned: We’ll provide updates as the experiment unfolds.

Don’t Touch That Plant!

Cow Parsnip

Trees, shrubs and wildflowers contribute so much beauty to the Hudson Valley — and joy to our lives — but here are 6 plants you definitely should stay away from while enjoying the outdoors. We’ve placed them in the order of harm they can cause — from permanent scarring to a temporary annoyance — and provided treatment tips if you’re unlucky enough to come into contact with one.


Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

Native to the Caucasus Mountains, giant hogweed was introduced into the U.S. in the early 20th century as an ornamental garden plant. The federal government has classified it as a “noxious weed.”

Look: Giant hogweed is like Queen Anne’s lace on steroids (both are members of the carrot family), growing up to 14 feet or more, with white flowers spanning 2.5 feet in diameter. Click here for more ID tips.

Clipping Giant Hogweed Flowers (Photo: NYS DEC on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Location: Basically anywhere, but it prefers open sites with abundant light, like fields, yards and roadsides.

Threat:  Simply brushing up against it can release oils whose exposure to sunlight results in a nasty burn and the possibility of permanent scarring.

Treatment: Wash affected area with soap and warm water immediately, and keep it out of sunlight for 48 hours.

FYI:  If you spot it, contact the NYSDEC’s Giant Hogweed Information Line (845 256 3111; and a team will be dispatched to get rid of it. NYS law prohibits possession of giant hogweed “with the intent to sell, import, purchase, transport, introduce or propagate.”

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum)

Cousin of giant hogweed, this is the only member of the plant genus Heracleum native to North America. Though uncommon, it does grow in New York.

Look: Smaller version of giant hogweed, growing 3-10 feet tall with similar white flowers. Click here for more ID tips.

Cow Parsnip (Photo: Thayne Tuason on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0))

Location: Woodlands, forest openings, grasslands, stream and river edges, along roadsides.

Threat: Though slightly less toxic than giant hogweed, contact with its light-sensitive sap can cause a blistering rash taking months to heal and sometimes leaving permanent scars.

Treatment: Wash affected area with soap and warm water immediately, and keep it out of sunlight for 48 hours.

FYI: Native Americans considered cow parsnip a spring delicacy. They peeled off its outer layer (which contains the sap) to eat the succulent young shoots. For this reason, it’s sometimes called Indian celery.

Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa)

Native to Eurasia, wild parsnip may have “escaped” to the U.S. because of its close resemblance in look and smell to cultivated parsnips.

Look: 4-5 feet tall with hundreds of yellow flowers that bloom in early summer. Click here for more ID tips.

Wild Parsnip (Photo: jinjian liang on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Location:  Along roadsides, in pastures and abandoned fields. Basically, anyplace with disturbed soil and lacking native vegetation.

Threat: Exposure to its sap produces a burning rash. Affected areas can remain discolored and sensitive to sunlight for up to two years.

Treatment: Wash affected area with soap and warm water immediately, and keep it out of sunlight for 48 hours.

FYI: Wild parsnip is especially prevalent in the lower Hudson Valley and Catskills. While the roots are edible, common sense advises sticking to garden-variety parsnips.  


Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

At least 70% of Americans are allergic to this native plant.

Look: “Hairy” vine whose leaves feature three “leaflets” (“Leaves of three, let it be!”) that go from red in spring to green in summer and back to red in fall. White berries. Click here for more ID tips.

Poison Ivy (Photo: Jo-Anne Asuncion)

Location: Primarily in wooded areas where sunshine filters through, but also in exposed rocky areas, open fields and places with disturbed soils. Can be found both on the ground or growing up tree trunks.

Threat: Contact with the plant — either directly or by touching pets or objects exposed to it — or breathing fumes of burning plants can cause a reddish, itchy rash and blistering that can last for weeks.

Treatment: Wash affected areas ASAP with soap (dish soap preferable) and cool water (warm water will open the pores, allowing the oil to spread). Calamine lotion, oatmeal baths and baking soda can offer temporary relief. In extreme cases, see a doctor.

FYI: Deer and bears eat poison ivy plants, while birds feast on its berries. Urushiol, the sticky oil responsible for the rash, doesn’t protect the plant from predators, but helps it retain water.

Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix)

Though uncommon, it’s native to NY.

Look: Either a small, slender tree, or multi-stemmed shrub, it features grey bark, leaves with 7-13 leaflets and clusters of small yellow flowers followed by small whitish berries. Click here for more ID tips.

Poison Sumac with yellow flowers
Poison Sumac with yellow flowers (Photo: Joshua Mayer on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0))

Location: Swamps and peat bogs.

Threat: Contact can cause a painful, itchy rash and blisters (caused by the same oil found in poison ivy). While only hunters or birdwatchers may come into direct contact, the rash can also be contracted via inhaling smoke from burning plants.

Poison Sumac with white berries
Poison Sumac with white berries (Photo: Pictoscribe on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

Treatment: Wash affected area ASAP with soap (preferably dish soap) and cool water. While there is no treatment for the symptoms, calamine lotion and Benadryl can offer temporary relief.

FYI: Neither staghorn nor smooth sumac, common along Hudson Valley roads, is toxic.


Stinging Nettles (American: Urtica dioica ssp. gracili & European: Urtica dioica ssp. dioica)

Encounters with both the native and invasive varieties of nettles are unpleasant but don’t typically have long-term consequences.

Look: Slender stems growing 6-8 feet tall bear leaves and clusters of tiny, light-green or tan flowers. Stems and underside of leaves feature hairs about 1 mm long. Click here for more ID tips.

Stinging Nettles (Photo: Paul M on Unsplash)

Location: Along stream banks and in areas with disturbed soils. Usually found in dense stands.

Threat: Contact with hairs releases a dose of histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin and formic acid that causes an immediate painful stinging sensation (akin to a bee sting) often followed by burning, itching or tingling that can last for several hours.

Treatment: Wash affected area with soap and water ASAP. Applying ice also can relieve burning.

FYI: Stinging nettles are nutritious and can be eaten if cooked, which deactivates the harmful chemicals. (Be sure to wear gloves when prepping.) Try these recipes for sauteed stinging nettles and stinging nettle soup.

Lantern Fly

Spotted Lantern

Now, more than ever, be on the lookout for spotted lantern flies. Sightings of these EXTREMELY harmful insects, native to Asia, have just been confirmed in Manhattan’s Riverside Park as well as across the Hudson in Secaucus, N.J. — bringing them perilously close to the Hudson Valley. Last year, they also were discovered in three upstate counties and on Long Island.

The flies feed on the sap of — and can wreak great havoc on — more than 70 plant species. Favorite food sources include apple trees and grape vines, whose yields add $358 million to New York’s economy each year. The flies also secrete an unpleasant, sticky substance (known as honeydew) that can get on the hair and clothes of those trying to enjoy outdoor recreation.

Spotted Lantern
Spotted Lantern fly Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture ,

Warmer temperatures encourage the flies’ northward migration, and humans facilitate their move — the bugs lay eggs on firewood and other objects left outdoors and then transported elsewhere. While the state Department of Agriculture & Markets has issued a quarantine on certain goods from areas in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia most hard-hit by this infestation, the recent sightings show it’s not foolproof —and that your help is urgently needed to halt the insects’ spread into our region.

This fact sheet offers tips for identifying spotted lantern flies and what you can do to keep these pests in check.