New York City, NY

What experts say you should do if you see an invasive spotted lanternfly

B.R. Shenoy

"Harming our city's wildlife is broadly prohibited, but in an effort to slow the spread of this troublesome species, the current guidance remains: if you see a spotted lanternfly, please squish and dispose of this invasive pest," the New York City Parks Department on its website.

The invasive spotted lanternfly is becoming more common across the United States.

Environmental agencies urge people who come across the pest to squash them and notify local authorities.

How does it look?

Per the University of Minnesota Extension:

  • Adult spotted lanternflies are quite large (one to one and a half inches long).
  • When at rest, they are taupe to gray with black polka dots on the wing.
  • In flight, you can see their lower wings, a combination of black, white, and red.
  • Nymphs do not fly until they reach adulthood, but the spotted theme continues.
  • Larvae are black with white spots, and as they grow older, they turn red with spots.

What makes it a threat?

According to the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center, it is a "serious economic threat to multiple U.S. industries," including the grape, orchard, nursery, and logging industries.

Here is an excerpt from Pest World:

”Spotted lanternflies do not bite or sting humans but are a major destructive pest. They are a huge agricultural threat to plants and trees such as grapes, hops, and hardwoods, causing costly damage. They are also a nuisance and can affect the quality of life in the areas they invade because they are nuisance and will congregate in large numbers. Spotted lanternflies harm their host plants by feeding on the plant's sap, leading to weeping wounds of sap and mold, which can result in stunted growth or even plant death."

American sightings

According to the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center, it was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014, but it appeared to have been present for two to three years.

At least 12 other states have confirmed it: New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Iowa, and Massachusetts.

What should you do if you spot them?

Those who come across the invasive insects are instructed to file public reports on state websites after first eliminating the pest.

Per ABC news:

"People should check outdoor items for spotted lanternfly eggs, which can look like a mass covered with gray wax. Scrape them off, put the mass in a plastic zippered bag with hand sanitizer and throw it out, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says."

Takeaway

Experts believe that a warming climate will expand the species’ range and make population explosions more challenging to control or predict.

Here is an excerpt from The Hill:

“Depending on if it’s a hot year or a cold year, or if there are cold snaps or warm snaps, really causes variance in lanternfly outbreaks,” said Helmus. “What we are finding is that because of climate change, it might be that you see more of these sorts of large explosions of lanternflies because it just so happens to be the perfect year for them to grow.”

Have you seen any lanternflies in your area? Let us know in the comments.

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