Spotted in the City

Written by Alycia “Lee” Butler 

Spotted lanternflies may be pretty with their vibrant red forewings, but they are invasive and a danger to the environment. They’ve been found jumping outside of businesses, ruining gardens, and swarming trees. A viral tiktoker by handle livanysqisher educates about invasive species including these insects. She posts consistent videos that show her capturing lanternflies with a bottle because they swarm on trees, including one particular viral video.  

In recent months, spotted lantern flies have been swarming Allegheny County. People in the Strip District, Downtown, and the Northside of Pittsburgh have reported killing up to a dozen in a short period of time. WPXI published a segment on September 27 discussing the affect these insects have on North Shore.  

According to the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University, the spotted lanternfly is thought to have come into the U.S. via a shipment from China in 2012 and trains. The invasive insect does not fly as its name suggests, but rather is a leaf-hopping insect. It does not bite or sting humans, but they have been called a burden by many.  

Spotted lanternflies cause tremendous harm to plants and trees. According to the US Department of Agriculture, they feed on the sap of food crops such as grapes and apples, and trees like maple and timber. They are particularly attracted to an invasive tree called the tree of heaven. When they feed, they puncture plants and weaken them.  Lanternflies then excrete honeydew, sugar water, that attracts insects like bees and wasps. It also causes mold, and further kills crops.  

The insect can only produce one generation per year, but can lay over 300 eggs.  Even though winter is approaching, it will take several hard freezes to kill spotted lanternflies. Eggs can survive extreme temperatures due to the mud-like coating on them. 

Fall is mating season for these flies, and it is important to prevent future generations. Therefore, local authorities and wildlife conservationists recommend that if you see any signs of an egg mass or fly to destroy and kill it. “See it, squash it”. 

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