Their name and moth-like appearance may seem appealing, but if you see spotted lanternflies in the U.S., officials want you to kill them.
That’s because spotted lanternflies, known by the scientific name Lycorma delicatula, are highly invasive and damaging to more than 70 species of plants, fruits and trees. Not only do the insects have voracious appetites, but their feeding process also creates a fluid called honeydew that encourages sooty mold growth that further weakens plants.
They reproduce quickly, laying masses of eggs that resemble clumps of mud. They also spread easily by attaching themselves to humans, animals, vehicles and other moving objects. They have few natural predators here in the U.S., thus, the need to rely on human predators and their deadly shoes.
The pest was first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014. A Rutgers entomology professor told CBS New York the bug likely arrived via a landscaping stone shipment from China. They are harmless to humans and animals.
In 2019, the spotted lanternfly started spreading from Pennsylvania and has now been recorded in 10 states, mostly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. These include New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Connecticut and Indiana. However, the bug has already been seen as far west as Kansas.
The New York City Parks’ Twitter account responded to one New York resident sharing that she’d killed a spotted lanternfly by saying, “Have no fear, you are a civic hero! Spotted lanternflies are a threat to our city’s forests. NYC, be like Sara! If you see a spotted lanternfly, squish it, dispose of it.”
Have no fear, you are a civic hero! Spotted lanternflies are a threat to our city's forests. NYC, be like Sara! If you see a spotted lanternfly, squish it, dispose of it, and report it to us at https://t.co/LpuGFh97La. https://t.co/DppTLvGQAm
— NYC Parks (@NYCParks) September 14, 2021
In a humorously headlined though serious article (“Die, Beautiful Spotted Lanternfly, Die”), the New York Times shared that the spotted lanternfly could greatly affect New York’s Finger Lakes and Long Island vineyards and its wine industry, as the bug loves grapes.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture urged state residents to report any spotted lanternfly sighting. Then it says, “Kill it! Squash it, smash it … just get rid of it. In the fall, these bugs will lay egg masses with 30-50 eggs each. These are called bad bugs for a reason, don’t let them take over your county next.”
In California, the state is hoping to ward off the invasive species with a strict entry limit on bringing in the spotted lanternfly itself, the plants it likes to feed on and items coming from states with spotted lanternfly infestations.
If you don’t feel like you can stamp on or squash these insects, you can capture and freeze adults for a more “humane” death.
Have you spotted any spotted lanternflies in your area?