As the climate got warmer these last few years, you may have noticed a bunch of large, brightly colored insects flying around that haven’t been around in years past. These red winged bugs are called Spotted Lantern Flies (Lycorma delicatula) and are native to China. While these flying bugs don’t bite or sting people and therefore may seem harmless, they are invasive and can cause serious harm to fruit and nut trees.
Invasive species are species that are not native to the area and thus have no natural predators to keep their populations in check and are therefore able to cause significant environmental or economic damage. One well known example is Cane Toads that were purposely shipped to Australia in 1935 to control beetles that had been ruining sugar cane crops. The Toads not only ate the beetles, but anything they could fit in their mouth. They also excrete toxins that kill any predator who tries to eat them, which resulted in some native animal populations facing a downward decline in populations. Today, the Australian Government estimates there are around 200 million Cane Toads in their country and millions of dollars have been spent to try to control their infestation.
Invasive species aren’t always introduced by humans on purpose. Many times, these species are accidentally moved to a new ecosystem by hitching a ride on other cargo that is being transported. Invasive species are dangerous to ecosystems, because of how quickly they can multiply and take over a region. This is why it is important for governments to catch invasive species early on to lessen their spread and impact, while they try to get control of the situation.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Spotted Lantern Flies were first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014 and since then they have spread to neighboring states. This is why many have seen these bugs all over New York and New Jersey. While the name suggests that it is a type of fly, it is actually a planthopper, because the females lay large masses of eggs on trees or other plants. These egg masses resemble mud, which makes it easy to go unnoticed. While their infestations have remained in the states near Pennsylvania, research has shown where the insect is able to survive.
There are things you can do to help minimize the spread of these bugs without using harmful pesticides! The best thing to do when you see a Spotted Lantern Fly is to try to stomp on it or suck them up into empty water bottles. These little bugs don’t seem to have any fear of people getting close to them, so by the time they realize the bottle is around them, they jump right into it! If you have a yard with trees, you can also set sticky band traps around the base of a tree. Lantern flies spend a lot of time on trees; therefore, these traps are very successful at catching a lot of these pests.
The adult Lantern Flies will die off this winter when the weather becomes cold, but the eggs will hatch in the spring. So, for every one adult you kill or trap, you will be preventing the creation of many new eggs. While these little guys may seem harmless, they can have a devastating impact on the fruit and nut tree industry. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce their impact on the ecosystem and the economy without the use of harmful pesticides.