a match made in heaven.
The spotted lanternfly is an invasive insect native to Asia. It has hit the northeastern United States hard since its discovery in 2014 and is present in 43 counties in Pennsylvania. The destructive insects feed on the sap of more than 70 tree species, but it has a favorite: Ailanthus altissima, or tree-of-heaven, which is also an invasive species.
Research from Penn State Extension shows that controlling tree-of-heaven can, in turn, slow the spread of spotted lanternfly. Land stewards at Natural Lands’ ChesLen Preserve in Coatesville, Chester County, are putting this theory to the test with a massive Ailanthus removal effort. ChesLen is plagued with thousands of Ailanthus trees covering more than 20 acres.
Tree-of-heaven resprouts when cut down and its extensive root system sends up suckers. The most effective method of killing the trees is targeted application of herbicide to their bark. Last spring, thanks to a grant from the E. Kneale Dockstader Foundation, Natural Lands’ staff was able to work with a contractor to treat more than 2,000 trees-of-heaven. ChesLen staff will monitor the treated Ailanthus and re-treat as needed.