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An Uninvited Guest

Jan 27, 2023 | Horticulture

An Uninvited Guest

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Throughout 2022’s summer, New Yorkers united to squash a new invasive pest, the spotted lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula. First documented in 2014, this pest of many agricultural crops has been spreading throughout the northeastern United States. 

These beautiful invaders’ favorite food is the tree of heaven, Ailanthus altissima. The Madison Square Park Arboretum contains one of these trees at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue. This fast-growing tree is a veteran specimen of ages past. It has smooth gray bark and produces a strong, unpleasant odor. This tree has been aged at close to 60 years old, making it one of the oldest of its kind in NYC, as these species are vigorous but short-lived growers.

Tree of heaven’s invasive nature helps create perfect food corridors for these pests along roadsides and disturbed lands. Fortunately, land managers can use this to their advantage as spotted lanternflies will always flock to these “trap” trees where their eggs can be manually scraped off and killed with alcohol.

At Madison Square Park, these egg cases are being scraped off this winter while the tree is pruned. Our horticulture team will then set up traps for these insects at the tree’s base during the insect’s active season to catch any stragglers. 

Spotted lanternflies are a newly introduced pest, and control methods will continue to evolve as we learn more about how they behave in the landscape. You can help control this invasive pest by continuing to squash any spotted lanternfly that crosses your path.

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