Spotted Lanternfly Invasion

By: Omer Yar

Have you ever walked out of the comfort of your home, minding your own business and then boom, you see a really ugly big red bug just flying near you? If you have seen something like that, chances are you have spotted the spotted lanternfly. These annoying pests are actually quite harmful to the ecosystem since a horde of them can actually deplete some of our oxygen as they continue to destroy countless trees. And now these things are actually in NYC as invasive and annoying as ever. But don’t worry! Scientists are already working on possible solutions and remedies to help aid in the extermination of the bug. There is also a great deal that you can do to help.

The spotted Lanternfly is a very very invasive species and is also considered a planthopper. These weird-looking bugs are native to China and have spread through neighboring countries in Asia such as South Korea and Japan. And now all the way from Asia they have come and started breeding in America. They even went as far as to pop up in NYC, and they breed fast! “There were so many of them at one point that one of them managed to get into a moving bus and crawled up my leg,” stated Muhammed Elijah A student from Baccalaureate School for Global Education. In NYC alone they pose a significant threat to agricultural and forest health. As the numbers of these pests increase the more they damage our ecosystem as these bugs are often found in hordes leeching off something like a tree. They mainly impact the agricultural economy, as they target the crops that farmers need to sell. Research provided by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service shows that these pests can be spread long distances by people who move infested material or items containing egg masses and hitch a ride on whatever it is they are on. This is how the spotted lanternfly gets around so fast and spreads/breeds even further. This problem has in fact gotten so bad that according to a study from economists in “Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences”, in the U.S. alone, it has cost us over 100,000,000 dollars. So not only are they annoying, they actually harm the well-being of the country, especially in rural areas where farming and taking care of crops is more important. 

Scientists suggest that anyone who happens to come across these pests kills them immediately. Why you may ask? This species is a very persistent insect, it’s hard to stomp them out. As mentioned earlier these things can breed very fast. But how can you spot one? Well, thanks to the very informative description given by the “Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection”, the front wings of the spotted lanternfly are light brown with black spots in the center. Their hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black with a white band in between. The legs and head are black; the abdomen is yellow with broad black bands. Furthermore, why should we kill them? How invasive could they possibly be? Well, one of these insects has the potential to produce 20+ more, and continue to mass breed during the fall-winter seasons. Cornell’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences states one female spotted lanternfly can create an egg mass of 30-60 eggs meaning that one female has the potential to make 30-60 more, and if any one of those 30-60 new lanternflies happens to be a female that’s another potential 30-60 more. This loop in breeding is what makes them so invasive. “There are too many of them in too many places. If they have hoards of these insects latch on to a multitude of trees, that has to be horrible for the ecosystem” said Muhammed Elijah. These insects have been frequently popping up around Academy of American Studies and the nearby communities that are around us. It is important to know how to effectively kill these bugs. They are a bit quick and can sometimes hop out of the way of a stomp but they tire easily so if you keep trying you’ll get them. The Integrative Ecology Lab at Temple University shows us a method that is effective and easy to do. All you need is an empty plastic bottle and boom! You’ve got yourself a spotted lanternfly trap, “Just hold the bottle over the pest, and boom, it flings itself off of the tree and into the bottle. Once you’re done collecting lanternflies, just stick the bottle in the freezer to humanely kill them,” This is called “The Bottle Method”. However, say you don’t want to do all that and just kill them when they happen to be right in front of you. Well sometimes stomping them just isn’t enough, it’s gross but you’re going to want to stomp on them and then drag your foot to really make sure that they are actually dead. 

Now moving further from the annoyances they cause to local communities, let’s talk on a larger scale even outside of New York. According to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, they say that “If not contained, the spotted lanternfly could potentially drain Pennsylvania’s economy of at least $324 million annually and cause the loss of about 2,800 jobs” This economic crisis costs so much for it to be caused by only one species of bug and in one single state no less. Let’s go even further and think on a more national level. According to the same researchers from Penn State, they speak about a worst-case scenario kind of situation. “These losses could increase to $554 million annually and almost 5,000 jobs.”

Academy of American Studies can help ensure that they don’t spread further into the U.S. outside of killing these bugs directly. Students could help prevent the spread of lanternflies from even reaching the trees of their neighborhood. “I would want a big mass extermination for them. If it were up to me I would want to round up exterminators and take them all out at once,”  said Muhammed, “They breed too fast to take care of them individually”. But there are many more methods to try and help. One way is shown to us by Montgomery Township, New Jersey They inform us that spraying vinegar on trees and plants would kill the insects on contact, preventing them from spreading further, however, be advised that vinegar could potentially harm the plants you’re spraying it on. You can also email a photo to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation at any time when you come across these creatures so they know where they are appearing in our city.  Currently, there is no known research on the eradication of spotted lanternflies, however, entomology experts say that having people kill lanternflies is a short-term strategy as scientists continue to develop long-term, sustainable solutions.

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