They'll Soon Be Back, and It's Our Job to 'Eliminate' Them

Spotted lanternflies are due to start hatching soon; experts say we need to 'smash' invasive species
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2023 10:05 AM CDT
Updated Apr 29, 2023 12:55 PM CDT
They'll Soon Be Back, and It's Our Job to 'Eliminate' Them
This Sept. 19, 2019, file photo shows a spotted lanternfly at a vineyard in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Since 2014, when they apparently made their way from China to the US in a shipping crate, spotted lanternflies have been the bane of farmers, agricultural officials, and plant lovers throughout the Northeast. Now, it's almost time for the eggs of the invasive species to hatch, and experts are offering the same advice that they have in the past if you spot one: "Kill it! Squash it, smash it ... just get rid of it," per the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania, where the critter was first seen nearly a decade ago. Since then, the spotted lanternfly—a colorful inchlong bug described by the Guardian as having hind legs with "patches of red and black with a white band," an abdomen that's "yellow with black bands," and black spots on its wings, which are red, brown, and black—has been detected in at least 14 states, spreading as far south as North Carolina, and as far west as Michigan.

Per the US Department of Agriculture, the spotted lanternfly feasts on "a wide range of fruit, ornamental, and woody trees," though it's technically harmless to humans. The insect doesn't fly long distances—USA Today notes that it more typically "[hops] from place to place"—but instead is a "hitchhiker," catching rides on cars, trucks, RVs, and trains to make its way to other areas, USDA rep Matthew Travis tells the paper. They tend to hunker down on tree bark, decks, bicycles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, and kids' play equipment, among other items, to lay mudlike egg masses that can contain three or four dozen eggs each. One industry in particular is nervously eyeing the reemergence of the insect: winemakers, which can see entire grape crops ruined by an infestation, per Fast Company.

In October, one Pennsylvania vineyard owner told CNBC he lost more than $500,000 worth of product in one year's time. Experts are trying to come up with a long-term plan to deal with these pests, but as they research possible remedies, they're also trying to rope in the public to help in their more immediate efforts, especially to stop the spread further south and west. Agriculture officials advise using something with a thin, hard surface, like a credit card, to scrape egg masses off of objects when they're detected—you'll "need to hear the eggs popping" as you work to know you're doing the job right, one expert tells the Guardian. Otherwise, when you see them around, you know what you have to do. "Take the extra effort of trying to stomp them or step on them and eliminate them," Travis says, per USA Today. (More invasive species stories.)

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