Dim Truth of Lanternflies

Photo Credit/ Montana Gates Lanternflies originated from Asia and came to North America in 2014.

Montana Gates

Contributing Writer 

The population of the spotted lanternfly is spreading throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and is having a serious and detrimental impact on our ecosystem. 

This lanternfly is an invasive species from Asia that threatens a lot of agricultural plant life, causing much potential for financial turmoil to the state as well. These planthoppers feed on the sap of plants, weakening them and leaving behind a sticky residue that attracts other insects and causes mold on trees. 

Dr. Matthew S. Wallace, Professor of Biological Sciences and Department Chair, spoke on these invaders and provided insight into the severity of the situation. 

“Well, this is certainly a pest that has caught everyone’s attention—farmers, growers, foresters, the public, and all levels of government. Billions of dollars are at stake due to the potential of this insect destroying grape, fruit, and hardwood crops.” 

The spotted lanternfly is grey in appearance with black spots on its outer wings. When it opens them up however, there are red wings underneath which also have black spots.

The egg masses look like mud on trees when they are wet, but have a cracked appearance when dried. Spotted lanternfly nymphs look more like black beetles with white spots, but as they age, they turn red with black markings and white spots. The nymphs are around one-fourth to one-half of an inch in size and the adults are about one inch in size. If you aren’t sure, you can always look up a picture of them on your cellphone for reference. 

The lanternfly can prove difficult to kill as they can jump very far and move out of the way very fast. It may take two or three attempts, and some chasing, to finally be able to squish them. 

As students, there is much we can do to help prevent the spread of this species. 

Due to the severity of the situation, many companies are being required to search their vehicles and personnel for any signs of the many stages of these insects, before transporting within the state or elsewhere. Therefore, PennState Extension offers PowerPoints on their site to educate companies about the species. 

Other than looking at the online PowerPoints, the PA Department of Agriculture asks that, if you see these insects, you destroy them immediately and report sightings online that are outside of the quarantine zone. 

Dr. Wallace reassures that we have faced similar invasive species before, such as “the gypsy moth, hemlock woolly adelgid, and emerald ash borer, to name a few…,” and that there is much research being done on how to rid ourselves of this invader.

“We are not exactly sure what will happen if they continue to spread; in some cases, mother nature imposes her own ‘natural controls’. Nevertheless, there are teams with the USDA, many are ESU students and graduates, conducting research on how best to stop the spread!” says Dr. Wallace. 

To help prevent the spread of the species, you can search your cars to make sure they aren’t hitching a ride with you. To educate yourselves further through the online resources, to find out if you are in a quarantine zone, or to report sightings outside of the quarantine zone, you can go to https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly.

Above all, the best way to help stop the spread, although it may seem cruel, is to kill them when you see them. It may be difficult for many, but if all else fails, remember that we just became a “wet campus” and that if the Spotted Lanternfly destroys all the grapevines, there won’t be grapes around to make any wine with. 

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