How to Kill Spotted Lanternflies with a Vacuum
Are you noticing spotted lanternflies in your garden, too? If you’re like me, you’ve been Googling “how to kill Spotted Lanternflies” way too much and are getting super frustrated. I am RIGHT THERE WITH YOU.
As you might have learned in my guest post over at Blessed Homeschool, our annual summer vegetable garden is one of our most anticipated annual family activities. It helps the kids to learn valuable real-life skills and has encouraged them to try a variety of fruits and vegetables! We tend to grow the same crops each year (zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, string beans, tomatoes, peppers, and raspberries) so we’ve learned how to produce a sizeable harvest without the use of pesticides.
Why aren’t we using pesticides? We prefer to eat organic whenever we can, so we might as well carry that out in our gardening, right? There are so many natural remedies available that it’s actually been very easy to grow a garden without pesticides.
When it comes to managing and figuring out how to kill Spotted Lanternflies, though? I’ve been at a loss.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. Why would I even want to figure out how to kill Spotted Lanternflies? Since they seem to only recently be in the north east portion of the United States, you might even be wondering what Spotted Lanternflies even are. At first sight, Spotted Lanternflies are actually gorgeous bugs. They’re black with little white polka dots when they’re babies and, when grown into adults, they’re a mix of white with black polka dots and even have red wings.
While Spotted Lanternflies are beautiful, they can be so incredibly destructive to so many plants, trees, and crops in general. If they’re not destroying crops by infesting and eating them, they’re leaving behind a secretion that both attracts other crop-eating insects AND “fosters the growth of molds on the sap as it collects at the base of the plant, which results in a reduction of photosynthetic potential of the plant, even resulting in the death of the plant.” (Wikipedia)
Spotted Lanternflies are gorgeous little deceptive buggers that, plainly said, need to go.
Thus began my quest of figuring out how to kill Spotted Lanternflies without the use of potentially harmful chemicals or ingredients.
Figuring out The Plan: How to Kill Spotted Lanternflies
After seeing quite a few Spotted Lanternflies on our beloved raspberry plants this year, I posted on social media asking friends for suggestions on how to kill them. I received suggestions such as using a dish soap based-spray and/or using a vinegar based-spray. Both could totally work, but, after doing some research, I found that using dish soap could potentially strip our plants of the natural oils they use as “sunscreen.” I typically use a DIY vinegar spray to kill weeds in the cracks of our driveway and, since it works to kill weeds, I didn’t want to take any chances of killing our raspberry plants.
I made a joke that I was going to find a handheld vacuum cleaner online and just vacuum my plants, but…as you can see…that joke turned into real life. AND IT WORKED!
How to Kill Spotted Lanternflies with a Vacuum
Ok, so, I first joked about using a handheld vacuum to kill the Spotted Lanternflies because I figured its compact size would be perfect for my “war” against the Lanternflies. Trouble was, though, that we only have a handheld vacuum that is more meant for cleaning cars than cleaning homes since it’s powered through an AC outlet.
No problem! I did a quick search to purchase an AC to DC converter. I found plenty, but…it would take a few days for them to arrive. And, I was NOT about to wait a few days to conquer the Spotted Lanternflies, no sireee Bob!
While our handheld vacuum wouldn’t work, our regular vacuum cleaner could do the trick! We’ve faithfully used Shark brand vacuums for the last 14 years and, while I didn’t really want to bring my vacuum outside, you gotta do what you gotta do when it comes to saving your garden harvest. I considered it a worthy potential sacrifice and went ahead with the plan.
To use your vacuum against the dreaded Spotted Lanternflies, you’ll need the following:
- a vacuum that has a wand (preferably one that will be ok becoming the designated “outside” or “garage” vacuum since….bug guts)
- an extension cord
- packing tape
- a straw (I used a straw from this set because it’s wider than typical. This way, I could use the same straw to suction both baby & adult-sized Spotted Lanternflies)
Since vacuums have a pretty strong suction, it’s important to modify the vacuum wand so you’re only sucking up the bug and NOT the entire plant. To do this, I put the straw at the end of the vacuum wand and then adhered it using packing tape resulting in a suction that’s concentrated to the small area of the straw.
Once I had my vacuum outside and hooked up to the extension cord, I went to work! Your experience could be different, but most of the Spotted Lanternflies in my garden were sitting on the stem of the plants. This made it super easy to “collect” the Spotted Lanternflies by running the “vacuum straw” up and down the stem.
It took some time and focus, but figuring out how to kill Spotted Lanternflies with a vacuum definitely worked and was super successful! After about a half hour, I’m estimating that I was able to catch upwards of 50 Spotted Lanternfly babies using the vacuum cleaner resulting in 50 fewer bugs to destroy crops in my neighborhood. Score!
A few things to keep in mind…
- Vacuums are loud. If you want to vacuum your plants like I did, please be mindful of your neighbors.
- Vacuums are powerful. There are lots of good bugs in the garden (like bees!) and you’ll need make sure you don’t suck them up along with the Spotted Lanternflies
- Vacuums are not disposable. Luckily, we have ended up with 2 vacuums in our home (We thought one was dead, so bought another. Turns out the “give it a good kick” suggestion actually works. We live in a 4-level split-level home, so we used each vacuum for 2 floors). If you are not ok with the “bug vacuum” either becoming a “bug vacuum” or figuring out how to give it a good scrub afterwards, this method of killing Spotted Lanternflies might not be for you.
If you decide to give this unconventional way of killing Spotted Lanternflies a try, too…let us know! Now that we have a designated “bug” vacuum, I’ll probably be out in the garden everyday doing my best to get rid of those little buggers! I’m SO glad that I figured out how to kill Spotted Lanternflies without using harmful chemicals so our fruits and vegetables can stay as pure as possible. Stay tuned and keep an eye on our social media because I’ll be sure to post images of our garden’s bounties.
Until next time, stay safe and enjoy quality time with your family,