Despite its colorful beauty, the spotted lanternfly is an invasive pest. The insects cause an estimated $150 million in annual crop and property destruction. Lanternflies harm our environment, and they also damage our cars. This article will explain the science behind lanternflies, how they may damage your vehicle and the steps to removing their splatter.
To clean spotted lanternflies off your car: Rinse off the area with water, apply bug remover to remove entrails, dry the surface, and apply a protective layer.
Background of lanternflies
The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species from regions in China, India, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Like a moth or butterfly, the lanternfly evolves month by month and has several stages in its life cycle.
The lanternflies' life cycle repeats from September through December, when they actively lay eggs, and they remain as egg sacs from October through June. These eggs sacs are incredibly durable, even through cold weather – with some eggs still hatching in 5-degree (Fahrenheit) weather per a study conducted by the State University of New Jersey. Female lanternflies can lay eggs on nearly any type of surface – but you'll mostly find them on tree bark. Females lay at least two egg masses per lifecycle, each containing an average of 30-50 eggs.
Many assume that the spotted lanternfly is a moth or fly; however, it's neither. Lanternflies are a part of the Order Hemiptera and the Family Fulgoridae, known as planthoppers, and they're closely related to cicadas, grasshoppers, and aphids.
The first confirmed sighting of a spotted lanternfly in the United States wilderness occurred on September 29th, 2014, in Berks County, Pennsylvania (northwest of Philadelphia). Since then, there have been confirmed populations in 10 additional states: Delaware, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Lanternflies are an active issue for environments in North America, but they're also present worldwide. They've found suitable habits in most of Europe, Africa, Australia, and South America.
How they spread
A fully developed spotted lanternfly cannot fly long distances like other insects; instead, it travels much like a grasshopper. Lanternflies use their hind legs to jump impressive distances -- up to three meters in one leap. These pesky insects can travel many miles daily by walking, jumping, and flying.
While lanternflies are able travelers and prolific reproducers, these are not the primary reasons for their spread. Globalization is to blame, as lanternflies easily hop aboard boats, trucks, trains, and planes to relocate.
Why they’re a problem
Outside of its natural environment in Asia, the spotted lanternfly has few active predators, creating a vast survival rate among the population. Native species are unfamiliar with the lanternfly and do not view the novel bug as a food source. In addition, predators interpret lanternflies’ bright coloration as toxic, making lanternflies an unlikely meal.
Spotted lanternflies feed on plant sap. After feeding, the insects excrete a sugary substance called honeydew which lingers on the tree and encourages the growth of black sooty mold. The mold is harmless to humans but causes considerable damage to trees, plants, and other surfaces.
How they can damage your vehicle
Lanternflies can damage your vehicle in several ways:
- When squashed, bugs' innards (or entrails) are released. Some bug entrails are naturally acidic, which may damage your exterior.
- Over time, heat and UV exposure can cause even basic insect entrails to become increasingly acidic. As bug innards bake onto your car's surface, they erode your finish.
- Lanternfly egg sacs are sticky and difficult to remove. Truck beds, bed caps, and wheel wells are viable spots for egg sacs. Things you may be hauling - wood, dollies, or pallets - may also contain sacs.
How to remove lanternflies from your car
Now that we understand a bit more about these invasive insects, we'll dive into the process of cleaning them off your car.
Rinse off the area with water
First, rinse the affected area with cool water to remove loose debris. Rinsing is an important step that expedites the cleaning process, and rinsing also provides additional lubrication to your car's surface. Some abrasive debris may be invisible to the naked eye, and a quick rinse prevents potential damage as you scrub.
We recommend using cool water to rinse. A warm surface makes the removal of sticky substances more difficult. Try to begin with a relatively cool vehicle and lower the surface temperature with your rinse.
Apply bug remover to remove entrails
Various tools on the market remove bugs while keeping your exterior finish safe. These tools come in different forms – each requiring a unique application method.
Aerosols and sprays
The average automotive bug remover comes in aerosol or spray form. Follow manufacturer directions to apply. Some recommend applying directly to your vehicle and allowing soak time, while others recommend application with a soft-bristled brush or cloth. Product effectiveness relies on proper application and use.
Some detailers use tar and sap removers for cleaning bug splatter. If left on for prolonged periods, these strong chemicals can cause damage to your exterior finish. After using either of these chemicals, rinse thoroughly to remove any residue.
Stoner Car Care’s Bug Eraser
Stoner Car Care's Bug Eraser is an excellent one-step cleaning alternative. The Bug Eraser contains softening agents and synthetic microfibers that specialize in lifting off bug splatter while keeping your paint safe. These erasers contain powerful cleaning agents that activate with water. Wet the eraser, scrub the area, and dry with a microfiber towel.
About microfiber towels – they are perfect for removing bug residue. Bugs can have tough exoskeletons that can scratch your paint when rubbed with force. Microfibers are the softest detailing materials around, able to protect your exterior from any possible damage.
Dry the surface
Once you have removed the lanternfly splatter/egg sacs, gently dry the surface with a clean microfiber towel. We specifically recommend microfiber towels for cleaning bug entrails. Microfiber towels house thousands of soft fibers that are engineered to absorb dirt, water, and debris without risking any damage to your exterior. They come at an affordable cost and are machine washable – saving you time and money.
While allowing your vehicle to air dry may be tempting, cloth drying prevents water spots and streaking. In addition, careful drying removes lingering chemicals and prepares your exterior for the next step.
Apply a protective layer
Though the previous steps removed any initial bug entrails, your exterior remains unprotected from future lanternfly damage. To protect your car's surface, add a layer of protection.
Wax or synthetic sealants provide excellent protection; however, each offers unique benefits and drawbacks. To learn more about protective coatings, check out our exterior detailing piece, which contains in-depth information on wax and sealant pros and cons.
For most applications, we recommend our Synthetic Sealant. Our synthetic sealant is heat and UV resistant and forms a weatherproof seal safe for all finishes, strong enough to protect from lanternfly splatter and many other adverse conditions.
Ride and shine
Unfortunately, it seems lanternflies are here to stay. Protect your car from these pervasive pests by taking these steps to eliminate lanternfly splatter: Rinse off the affected area with water, apply bug remover, dry the surface, and apply a protective layer. Check your vehicle for these unwanted hitchhikers, and don’t let the spotted lanternfly squash your car's shine.