Do you see it ? Crush it! Fighting the Invasive Spotted Lantern Fly

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This photo shows a Spotted Lanternfly, in Long Branch, NJ, August 7, 2022. The demands to kill on sight in New York and elsewhere are part of an aggressive campaign against an invasive pest that has spread to a dozen States in eight years. (Heide Estes via AP)

PA

When Stephen Nixon recently noticed a “beautiful” speckled lantern near his bag while skateboarding in Brooklyn, he answered the request of city officials.

He stomped on it.

“I don’t like killing things. Few people do. I will catch and release cockroaches if I find them in my apartment,” Nixon said. But he said it “looks like something worse” if the insect’s population explodes.

The demands for on-sight killing in New York and elsewhere are part of public campaigns to tackle an invasive insect that is now massing and feeding on plants across much of the eastern United States. Pretty with red wing markings, the spotted lanternfly is nevertheless a nuisance and a menace – the kind of insect that has people posting about stomping and stomping on social media.

In cities, it swarms outside buildings and lands on pedestrians. It excretes a sticky substance called honeydew which can accumulate on outdoor furniture. The sap-sucking insect also poses a danger to grapes and other agricultural crops, raising alarm bells this summer in New York’s wine country.

In mid-Atlantic states, officials are asking people to help them track and slow its spread, even if they have to give up.

“Be vigilant,” said Chris Logue of the New York Department of Agriculture.

Native to Asia, the spotted lantern was first identified in the United States in 2014, northwest of Philadelphia. It is likely that insect eggs came with a load of landscaping stones. Eight years later, infestations have been reported in thirteen states, mostly on the east coast, according to Cornell University’s New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. Individual insects have been spotted in several states, including two in Iowa this summer.

The insect was able to spread so far, so fast because it is a stealthy hitchhiker. This time of year, motorists inadvertently give adult moth-like lifts perched inside trunks, wheel arches or bumpers.

“Check your vehicle,” warned Logue. “What you’re really looking for is anything that’s possibly alive that’s sort of curled up in there that won’t be ejected from the vehicle during the trip. Really, really important.

People also unknowingly carry Mottled Lantern eggs, which are laid later in the season. Females leave masses of 30 or more eggs on everything from tree trunks to patio furniture. Eggs laid on portable surfaces, such as camping trailers and train cars, can hatch in the spring several miles away.

Spotted lanternfly fighters do everything from applying pesticides to felling sky trees, another invasive species that is a favored host of the spotted lanternfly. But public participation is at the forefront.

In Pennsylvania, residents of quarantined counties are being asked to check dozens of items for pests — ranging from their vehicles to camping gear to lumber and shrubbery — before heading to unmarked destinations. in quarantine.

Around the East, people are being asked to report sightings to help track the spread.

What if you see one? Show no mercy.

“Kill it! Smash it, smash it…just get rid of it,” read an article by Pennsylvania agricultural officials.

New York City parks officials agree, advising, “please crush and discard.”

“Join the Jersey Stomp Team,” read billboards in New Jersey showing a shoe about to eradicate a bug.

Heide Estes did just that after seeing a Mottled Lantern on a Sunday stroll in Long Branch, New Jersey this month.

“I came back and said to my partner, ‘You know, I saw a speckled lantern,'” Estes said, “and she was like, ‘Oh, I’m sure there are. to others. Let’s see.'”

There were more.

His partner, an entomologist, put four in a plastic bottle to show his colleagues on campus what they look like. They killed at least a dozen others. Many were massed on the trees of heaven.

“Obviously the whole place was infested,” she said.

Infestations in New York State were concentrated in the metropolitan area, but have spread near wineries in the state. Agriculture officials are worried about the fate of vineyards in the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island if infestations spread. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday the insect could cost the state millions.

“The spotted lanternfly sucks sap from the vines,” said Brian Eshenaur, an expert in Cornell’s pest control program. “And that makes them less winter hardy, so the vines can be lost during the growing season.”

Eshenauer said they’re more likely to spread through vineyards later in the season when Paradise trees go dormant. Although the vineyards around New York are already on the prowl.

At Sheldrake Point Winery in the Finger Lakes, vineyard manager David Wiemann said workers in the rows already know to be on their toes.

“We talked about how it would be detrimental to the vineyards,” Wiemann said. “So if they see one, they’ll let me know.”

Elisha A. Tilghman