Long Branch, NJ

Opinion: The Number of Lanternflies at the Jersey Shore Is Too Darn High!

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Photo by Magi Kern on Unsplash

Recently, my mother went to a restaurant in Pier Village for al fresco dining. Dining outside was never an issue for her, especially during cooler months when she could enjoy the wonderful views of the ocean. This time around, her dining was disturbed when an unexpected dinner guest landed on her shoulder, causing her to scream bloody murder.

I'm talking, of course, about the spotted lanternfly.

Having visited the area myself, I can attest that the lanternfly population is extremely high. Worse, it seems to be growing at a breakneck pace. Lanternflies can be spotted almost everywhere: sidewalks, on the sides of trees, even on the sides of houses.

While lanternflies cannot harm humans or pets, they can destroy trees and properties.

Photo by Jennifer Dries on Unsplash

Lanternflies love to eat trees, fruits, grapevines, and a number of other plants. Since they have few natural predators in our area, they've been exploding in numbers ever since they were spotted a couple of years ago.

Tree destruction is already terrible considering their importance on climate change. However, the destruction doesn't stop there. When lanternflies feed, they emit a sticky residue known as honeydew. This encourages the growth of black mold and mildew. If you have a wooden deck, this can prove to be nightmarish.

At the Jersey shore, most people have wooden decks. This is doubly true when you're talking about houses in areas like Long Branch or Sea Bright. Those lanternflies, pretty as they are, will wreak havoc on those decks.

Why isn't the local government doing something?

We all know that we are supposed to squish them and scrape off any egg sacs that we find on trees. However, there are a ton of lanternflies that are not going to die like that. There are just too many of them for us to randomly squish whenever we see them.

To be fair, New Jersey's state legislature offered to reimburse the costs that counties incur for spraying pesticides against them. Unfortunately, only nine counties are currently requesting funds for it. Why? Why aren't all of New Jersey's counties jumping on this?

More importantly, spraying is not enough to eliminate them completely. If the local government wanted to be way more efficient, they'd also hire people to remove eggs from trees, plant milkweed (which kills the lanternflies that eat them), and also release more praying mantises (a major predator) into nature.

Unless we see more action on behalf of the government, we're doomed to deal with these brightly colored nuisances for decades to come...and it will come at a cost to the Jersey Shore's booming tourism industry.

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Englewood, NJ

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