Penn State researchers discover "assassin bugs" to fight off invasive spotted lanternfly


The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species native to China, India, Vietnam, and Taiwan. The species was first discovered in the United States in Pennsylvania, in 2014. Since then, they have invaded several midwestern states. It typically sucks the nutrients from the plant it infects and can cause significant damage to crops and reduce yields.

Spotted lanternflies spread when their egg masses - 30 to 50 eggs, which cling to almost any surface, including vehicles like rail cars and trailers, as well as outdoor equipment and patio furniture, move from one place to another. For several years, spotted lanternflies had no known natural predators in the state, which greatly helped its rapid invasion across Pennsylvania.

But, with more studies having cropped up, Penn State researchers are finding several predators that like to make a meal out of the pests. Penn State entomology professor Kelli Hoover said:

I would say there are no specific predators, but there are generalists that are making use of this abundant food source. There are assassin bugs, sometimes called ambush bugs. One, in particular, is called the wheel bug. They have a piercing-sucking beak-type mouth. So, we’ve been finding wheel bug egg masses laying right next to spotted lanternfly egg masses. They hatch first and sit there and wait for the spotted lanternfly to come out of their eggs.

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