spotted lanternfly ontario

Next invasive insect menace may already be in Ontario and you should kill it on sight

A feared invasive pest that has lurked across Ontario's southern border may have already begun a secret incursion into Canada, as several sightings of the dreaded spotted lanternfly have been reported since 2022.

While there are no official confirmed sightings of the potentially devastating pest so feared that officials have warned to kill them on sight, there is mounting evidence that the spotted lanternfly has made the leap across the U.S. border and into Canada, posing serious threats to agriculture and commerce.

The spotted lanternfly (or Lycorma delicatula) may look like a harmless bug on the surface, but this plant-hopping insect, already well-established just beyond Ontario's borders, threatens to cripple the province's thriving wine industry if it manages to gain a foothold.

Confirmed populations of this insect have been spreading rapidly across the U.S. northeast after its accidental introduction from its native China.

The spotted lanternfly was first detected in the U.S. in 2014, though it is estimated to have arrived two years earlier. These creepy crawlies first established a presence in Pennsylvania and have since spread to a dozen confirmed U.S. states, including New York and Michigan.

Populations in Western New York have been particularly concerning for Ontario officials, as they threaten the wine-producing region just across the Niagara River.

Spotted lanternflies voraciously feed on a broad range of plants, ranging from the funky-smelling trees populating Toronto streets to the grape vines covering sprawling winery fields in Niagara Region.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has not confirmed the presence of the spotted lanternfly in the country, but that doesn't mean the species hasn't already made the jump across the border.

There is now reasonable evidence that the insect has arrived in Ontario following a number of sightings over the past year and a half.

The website iNaturalist shows at least three reported sightings of the insect in Ontario alone dating back to 2022. One specimen photographed in Niagara Falls, Ontario in September 2023 shows all of the telltale characteristics of a spotted lanternfly.

The person who shared the report (which remains unconfirmed by the CFIA) claims that the insect flew in their car window crossing the Peace Bridge from the U.S. — one of the many means these invasive pests can use to penetrate the country's borders.

Other unconfirmed but photographed sightings have been reported to iNaturalist from Oakville and New Lowell, Ontario.

Elsewhere in Canada, insects reported to be spotted lanternflies have been sighted in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Like the oft-quoted order from Apocalypse Now to "terminate with extreme prejudice," officials suggest that, after photographing suspected spotted lanternflies, you kill these invaders immediately and report them to the CFIA.

Lead photo by

Amy Lutz/Shutterstock

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