Spotted lanternfly (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae) can complete development and reproduce without access to the preferred host, Ailanthus altissima.
Despite its broad host range, the spotted lanternfly Lycorma delicatula (White), is known to have a marked preference for Ailanthus altissima. However, whether this polyphagous phloem feeder can complete its life cycle in the absence of A. altissima is unknown. We examined the performance of L. delicatula with and without access to A. altissima by tracking development, survival, host tree species association, and oviposition in large enclosures planted with Salix babylonica and Acer saccharinum along with either A. altissima or Betula nigra. We monitored enclosures from late May 2019 through June 2020. Lycorma delicatula survival was slightly higher in enclosures with A. altissima and 50% of individuals in A. altissima enclosures reached the adult stage ~6.5 d earlier than in enclosures without A. altissima. In the presence of A. altissima, nymphs were most frequently observed on this host while adults were found at similar frequencies on A. altissima and A. saccharinum. In the absence of A. altissima, nymphs were most frequently associated with S. babylonica and A. saccharinum, while adults were most often found on A. saccharinum. Females laid a total of 46 and 6 egg masses in enclosures with and without A. altissima, respectively, before freezing temperatures killed the remaining adults. The proportion of eggs that hatched per egg mass did not differ between treatments. Although L. delicatula can complete development and reproduce on other host species without access to A. altissima, fitness was reduced. These findings have implications for management that relies exclusively on treatment of A. altissima.