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Why Scientists Want You to Kill Spotted Lanternflies

Sen. Schumer: “We need to stomp out this bug before it spreads, otherwise our farmers and local businesses could face millions in damage”



Local agricultural organizations have launched “If you see it, kill it” campaigns to encourage people to slay the insects in order to stop any further spread across the United States as invasive spotted lanternflies continue to move around the country.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D., NY) earlier this week requested an additional $22 million in funding for a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that targets invasive species, which are species that are not native to a region and can quickly become overpopulated, wreaking havoc on their new environment. This was in response to the insect’s rapid expansion. He added in a statement that “we need to eradicate this virus before it spreads, or else our farmers and local businesses could face millions in damage and an uncontrollable swarm.”

The spotted lanternfly is a “planthopper,” not a moth or a fly. It belongs to the same group of insects as cicadas and aphids. Their light-brown, black-spotted wings, which are about an inch length, make them simple to identify. Here is some information about the spread of spotted lanternflies and the reasons why scientists advise people to kill any they may encounter.

The number of spotted lanternflies is increasing nationwide.

The spotted lanternfly, which is native to areas of southeast Asia, was discovered in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014, although nothing was known about its possible effects at the time. According to Brian Eshenaur, who works with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, “We knew very little about it in 2014 since it wasn’t an invasive pest in its home territory, where there are a suite of other insects that feed upon it and keep its population in check.” There are no spotted lanternfly predators in the United States, unlike in its native nation, though researchers have been trying with importing tiny Chinese native wasps to join the fight.

The expansion of the spotted lanternfly started out slowly. Eshenaur initially joined the group in 2018, when they were only updating their map every two or three years. He continues, “Now we update it a couple of times a week as the spotted lanternfly population grows and expands to new places. The bug is currently widespread throughout the Midwest and Northeast. “The tipping point last summer was when the numbers started going far up.”

In 13 states, including New York, Ohio, and Virginia, according to the most recent update of the map on August 8, spotted lanternfly sightings were reported. However, Eshenaur points out that a few additional states have reported finding dead individual insects but are not known to have infestations.

Why specialists recommend killing spotted lanternflies

The spotted lanternfly doesn’t bite, sting, or have venom, thus it can’t harm people or animals. However, it poses a threat to more than 100 different trees and plants, including grapevines and the fast-growing invasive tree of paradise from China. According to Julie Urban, an associate professor at the Penn State entomology department, “they enter their straw-like beaks into the plant and feed on the sap.” “It might kill other plants, but it’s more of a stressor,” she said. When insects attack plants or trees, the damage they cause results in sap leakage and the production of sticky honeydew, which can foster the development of sooty mold, a fungus that causes illness.

The country’s timber, orchard, and grape industries depend on grapevines, maple trees, and black walnut trees, all of which are preferred by the spotted lanternfly. Despite their concerns, experts agree that additional research is necessary to fully comprehend the spotted lanternfly’s economic impact.

As scientists work to create long-term, sustainable solutions, experts warn that having people kill lanternflies is a temporary answer. Will killing a few bugs have any effect, though, given that the environment is already home to thousands of insects?

Eshenaur asserts that modest actions, particularly at the local level, can have a significant impact on population reduction. One spotted lanternfly female can produce up to 40 egg masses, he claims. “Each one we step on might kill 40 people,” the man said.

Though spotted lanternflies are ultimately here to stay, all attempts are being made to limit their spread rather than fully eradicate them. Eshenaur asserts that “we don’t believe like eradication is an option for this.” It’s an annoyance we’ll get used to. To allow us more time to learn about this, we do aim to slow the spread.

Urban says that these efforts nevertheless benefit scientists even though it’s unlikely that stomping many feet will completely destroy the insect. When it comes to invasive species, she says, “people feel really frustrated, but whatever they can do helps researchers buy time as we come up with better solutions.” “It’s not in vain.”

The best method for eradicating spotted lanternflies

Although spotted lanternflies can’t fly very far on their own, they have managed to spread by riding in people’s and vehicles’ cars, which is why Urban advises being aware of your surroundings and eradicating any bug or egg masses you see if you see them. She warns, “If you don’t kill it, you’ll carry it.” “They don’t fly well, but they move all the time.”

Report any sightings of spotted lanternflies to regional agricultural organizations. Urban points out that Penn State has issued a guide with numerous trapping techniques, from adhesive bands to circle traps, but insists that a straightforward stomp is perfectly acceptable. She advises that you approach the insects from above since they will likely jump up to try to get away from you.

And Urban says there’s another choice if the idea of eating bug guts isn’t appetizing. You could always put it in your coffee cup and freeze it to get rid of it quickly.