Analysis of Anemotactic Flight Tendencies of the Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) during the 2017 Mass Dispersal Flights in Pennsylvania


Video-recordings were made of adult spotted lanternflies, Lycorma delicatula, taking flight from apple trees in an orchard in northeast Pennsylvania in September, 2017 during a mass dispersal flight event involving thousands of adults. The trajectories of adults flying upwind in straight and level or gradually descending flight allowed them to traverse only up to ca. 40 m in a single flight-bout. Many did not make it to trees or bushes that were at even shorter distances than this and they landed in the grass. Flight tracks of 162 adults launching themselves into the wind from the upper branches of apple trees were video-recorded in plan view from below by a camera placed on the ground aimed straight up at the sky. The tracks were then digitized and analyzed using a triangle of velocities technique to determine the degree to which the adults were progressing in a directly upwind flight track, with the wind vector experienced by each adult calculated from the adults’ flight track itself. Average airspeeds of upwind-flying L. delicatula had been previously measured in another group of adults and shown to not vary with wind speed. The headings (direction of thrust) of adults in the video frames were determined by matching the image of the adult in each video frame with a template image of a pinned adult of a known distance from the camera and heading. Matching the body axis in this way works for this species because the adults flying in these elongated fairly straight flight paths did so with forewings spread out flat to the ground with little discernable roll. Having determined airspeed and heading plus ground speed and track for each set of images allowed the third side of the triangle of velocities — the wind velocity vector — to be calculated for each flying adult at whatever altitude or lateral location in the camera’s field of view it was flying. Adult L. delicatula were found to head upwind in flight at 10.7° off the wind line to produce resulting track angles of progression over the ground averaging 30.9° off the wind line due to this discrepancy between their headings and the wind velocities into which they were flying. The wind velocity vectors provided by a ground-based anemometer during the periods each adult was flying through the video frames deviated from the wind velocity vectors calculated using the triangle of velocities technique by nearly 22° and were 50% lower in wind speed than the calculated vectors taken at the higher altitudes and locations each adult was flying. The triangle of velocities technique might provide a new way of using certain species of insects as free-flying anemometers to take wind velocity readings at different heights and spatial locations that are not attainable through the use of ground-based anemometers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10


  1. Baker TC, Haynes KF (1987) Manoeuvres used by flying male oriental fruit moths to relocate a sex pheromone plume in an experimentally shifted wind-field. Physiol Entomol 12:263–279

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Barringer LE, Donovall LR, Spichiger S-E, Lynch D, Henry D (2015) The first New World record of Lycorma delicatula (Insecta: Hemiptera: Fulgoridae). Entomol News 125:20–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Dara SK, Barringer LE, Arthurs SP (2015) Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae): a new invasive Pest in the United States. J Integr Pest Mgt 6(1):1–6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Han JM, Kim H, Lim EJ, Lee S, Kwon Y-J, Cho S (2008) Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha: Fulgoridae: Aphaeninae) finally, but suddenly arrived in Korea. Entomol Res 38:281–286

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Hawkes C, Patton S, Coaker TH (1978) Mechanisms of host plant finding in adult cabbage root fly, Delia brassicae. Ent Exp Appl 24:219–227

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Kennedy JS (1940) The visual responses of flying mosquitoes. Proc Zool Soc Lond Ser A-Gen and Exp 109:221–242

    Google Scholar 

  7. Kennedy JS (1951) The migration of the desert locust, (Schistocerca gregaria). I. The behavior of swarms. II. A theory of long-range migrations. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 235:163–290

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Kennedy JS (1986) Some current issues in orientation to odour sources. In: Payne TL, Birch MC, Kennedy CJE (eds) Mechanisms in insect olfaction. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 12–21

    Google Scholar 

  9. Kennedy JS, Thomas AAG (1974) Behaviour of some low-flying aphids in wind. Ann Appl Biol 76:143–159

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Kim SS, Kim TW (2005) Lycorma delicatula (White) (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae) in Korea. Lucanus 5:9–10

    Google Scholar 

  11. Kim J, Lee EH, Seo YM, Kim NY (2011) Cyclic behavior of Lycorma delicatula (Insecta: Hemiptera: Fulgoridae) on host plants. J Insect Behav 24:423–435

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Lee JE, Moon SR, Ahn HG, Cho SR, Yang JO, Yoon C, Kim JH (2009) Feeding behavior of Lycorma delicatula (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae) and response on feeding stimulants of some plants. Korean J Appl Entomol 48:467–477

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (2017)

  14. Reddy BS, Chatterji BN (1996) An FFT-based technique for translation, rotation and scale-invariant image registration. IEEE Trans Image Process 5:1266–1271

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Sane SP, Srygley RB, Dudley R (2010) Antennal regulation of migratory flight in the neotropical moth Urania fulgens. Biol Lett 6:406–409

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. Tejima S, Ono T, Sakuma M (2017) Antennal mechanosensors mediate sex pheromone-induced upwind orientation in the potato tuberworm moth. Physiol Entomol 42:113–124

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Tomisawa A, Ohmiya S, Fukutomi H, Hayashi K, Ishikawa T (2013) Biological notes on Lycorma delicatula (white) (Hemiptera, Fulgoridae) in Ishikawa prefecture, Japan. Jpn J Entomol 16(1):3–14

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas C. Baker.

Additional information

Dedicated to the Memory of Professor J. S. Kennedy, First to Describe Optomotor Anemotaxis and Triangle of Velocities for Studying Insect Flight Behavior

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOC 57 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Myrick, A.J., Baker, T.C. Analysis of Anemotactic Flight Tendencies of the Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) during the 2017 Mass Dispersal Flights in Pennsylvania. J Insect Behav 32, 11–23 (2019).

Download citation


  • Spotted lanternfly
  • Lycorma delicatula
  • invasive species
  • flight behavior
  • dispersal
  • anemotaxis
  • triangle of velocities