The Problem with Spotted Lanternflies and How to Deal with the Invasive Insect

Nowadays, nurturing crops and plants can be a bit challenging. Aside from the ongoing threat of heatwaves, invasive and destructive insects have become more unmanageable. And according to reports, the spotted lanternfly is the main culprit of this year’s agricultural issue. Numerous spotted lanternflies were found in New York, Canada, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Cbaile19

The spotted lanternfly originated in China and was believed to arrive in the US by a stone shipment in 2012. Authorities from New York State Integrated Pest Management Program stated that the spotted lanternfly’s first appearance was in Berks County, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t just the pest’s arrival but also the first recorded infestation — making them a major threat to the country’s agricultural industry. The quick spread of spotted lanternflies happened due to their skill in hitchhiking. Also, the female can easily drop her eggs on any vehicle it settles on.

Photo: Youtube/TODAY

Spotted lanternflies do not pose any harm to humans, and they are not venomous. However, they can indirectly affect humans by damaging their crops and plants. It gravely affects agriculture as spotted lanternfly infestation causes oozing sap, wilting, leaf curling, and dieback in trees, crops, vines, etc. It feeds on fruit trees, ornamental trees, woody trees, vegetables, herbs, grains, and vines. Once it feeds on a host, the spotted lanternfly emits honeydew. It is a sugary substance that promotes the development of black sooty mold, which damages the host.

“Their mouth parts are basically a straw, so they stab them into plants and drink plant juices. Well, the plants need those plant juices to make new leaves and to make fruits,” Dr. Mark Willis, an entomologist, explained. Moreover, authorities have warned that the insects are more threatening to grape orchards and logging businesses. If the issue is not given a solution, it will cost the US economy millions of dollars. Based on a 2019 agricultural study from PennState College of Agricultural Sciences, the damages from spotted lanternflies could cost $324 million. In addition, 2,800 jobs in the industry are at stake if the situation is not adequately controlled.

Photo: Youtube/TODAY

For this reason, cities infested with numerous spotted lanternflies were placed under quarantine. It was an effective solution to gradually stop the spread of insects throughout the country. Last March, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding reported that there were 11 Pennsylvania counties placed under quarantine due to infestation. With the department’s ongoing mission to eradicate the pest, citizens are encouraged to eliminate the insect if they spot one.

You can recognize a spotted lanternfly by the following characteristics:

  • An adult spotted lanternfly is about 1” long and 1/2” wide at rest.
  • The forewing is grey with black spots.
  • Wingtips are meshed black blocks outlined in gray.
  • Hindwings have patches of red and black with a white band.
  • The legs and head are black with a yellow abdomen.

People can also extinguish a spotted lanternfly during its early stages or remove eggs on any surface. You can take preventive measures at home, especially when you have crops and trees. Authorities advise citizens to scrape the eggs, seal them inside a bag of hand sanitizer, then throw them away. Furthermore, at first sight of the pest, squish them immediately. People can also use a fly swatter or a dust buster.

Photo: Youtube/TODAY

Since the infestation occurred, citizens have been sharing various ways to kill a spotted lanternfly on social media. Someone even used a Starbucks Frappuccino cup — and it was totally effective. Jesse from Today also reported that scientists are planning on a backup bug. The spotted lanternfly isn’t a native insect; that’s why no predator can chase it away at the moment. Researchers are in the works of finding one that can be safe for humans. The bug that they will discover can help regulate the spotted lanternfly population.

For now, the solution is in the hands of the authorities and citizens. You can also report sightings of spotted lanternfly infestation both to the PDA and USDA. Responses might be a bit slow as they receive more than 1,500 reports per week. However, they are doing their best to inform cities about the current situation with spotted lanternflies.

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