See it? Squish it! Fighting the invasive spotted lanternfly

Aug 19, 2022, 4:22 AM | Updated: 3:35 pm

When Stephen Nixon recently noticed a “beautiful” spotted lanternfly by his bag as he skateboarded in Brooklyn, he heeded the request of city officials.

He stomped on it.

“I don’t like killing things. Not many people do. I’ll catch and release cockroaches if I find them in my apartment,” Nixon said. But he said it “seems like something worse” if the insect’s population explodes.

Kill-on-sight requests in New York City and elsewhere are a part of public campaigns to fight an invasive insect now massing and feeding on plants around much of the eastern United States. Pretty with red wing markings, the spotted lanternfly is nonetheless a nuisance and a threat — the sort of insect that inspires people to post about squishing and stomping them on social media.

In cities, it swarms outside buildings and lands on pedestrians. It excretes a sticky substance called honeydew that can collect on outdoor furniture. The sap-sucking insect also poses a danger to grapes and other agricultural crops, which is raising alarms this summer in New York state wine country.

Across mid-Atlantic states, officials are asking people to help them track and slow its spread, even if they have to put their foot down.

“Be vigilant,” said Chris Logue of New York’s Department of Agriculture.

A native of Asia, the spotted lanternfly was first identified in the United States in 2014, northwest of Philadelphia. It’s likely that insect eggs came over with a load of landscaping stones. Eight years later, there are reported infestations in thirteen states, mostly on the East Coast, according to the New York State Integrated Pest Management program at Cornell University. Individual insects have been spotted in more states, with two turning up in Iowa this summer.

The insect has been able to spread so far, so fast because it is a stealthy hitchhiker. Drivers this time of year unwittingly give lifts to adults, which look like moths, perched inside trunks, on wheel wells or on bumpers.

“Check your vehicle,” warned Logue. “What you’re really after is anything that maybe is alive, that is kind of hunkered down in there and is not going to get blown off the vehicle during the trip. Really, really important.”

People also unknowingly transport spotted lanternfly eggs, which are laid later in the season. Females leave masses of 30 or more eggs on all sorts of surfaces, from tree trunks to patio furniture. Eggs laid on portable surfaces, like camping trailers and train cars, can hatch in the spring many miles away.

Spotted lanternfly fighters are doing everything from applying pesticides to cutting down trees of heaven, another invasive species that is a favored host of the spotted lanternfly. But public involvement is front and center.

In Pennsylvania, residents in quarantined counties are asked to check for the pests on dozens of items — ranging from their vehicles, to camping gear to lumber and shrubs — before heading to non-quarantined destinations.

Around the East, people are being asked to report sightings to help track the spread.

And if you see one? Show no mercy.

“Kill it! Squash it, smash it … just get rid of it,” reads a post by Pennsylvania agricultural officials.

New York City parks officials agree, advising: “please squish and dispose.”

“Join Jersey’s Stomp Team,” read billboards in New Jersey showing a shoe about to stamp out an insect.

Heide Estes did just that after seeing a spotted lanternfly on a Sunday walk in Long Branch, New Jersey this month.

“I came back and I said to my partner, ‘You know, I saw a spotted lanternfly,'” Estes said, “and she was like, ‘Oh, I’m sure there’s more. Let’s go look.'”

There were more.

Her partner, an entomologist, put four in a plastic bottle to show co-workers on campus what they look like. They killed at least a dozen more. Many were massed on trees of heaven.

“Clearly, the whole spot was infested,” she said.

Infestations in New York state had been concentrated in the metropolitan area, but have spread close to the state’s wine-growing vineyards. Agricultural officials are concerned about the fate of vineyards in the Finger Lakes, the Hudson Valley and Long Island if infestations spread. Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday the insect could cost the state millions.

“The spotted lanternfly sucks the sap out of the vines,” said Brian Eshenaur, an expert with the Cornell pest program. “And it makes them less hardy for the winter, so vines can be lost over the growing season.”

Eshenauer said they’re more likely to spread into vineyards later in the season, when trees of heaven enter dormancy. Though vineyards around New York are already on the lookout.

At Sheldrake Point Winery in the Finger Lakes, vineyard manager David Wiemann said workers in the rows already know to be on guard.

“We’ve talked about how detrimental it would be to the vineyards,” Wiemann said. “So if they see one, they would let me know.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

This photo mad available by Ukrainian doctor Oleh Duda shows the moment when lights at a hospital w...
Associated Press

Surgeons work by flashlight as Ukraine power grid battered

KHERSON, Ukraine (AP) — Dr. Oleh Duda, a cancer surgeon at a hospital in Lviv, Ukraine, was in the middle of a complicated, dangerous surgery when he heard explosions nearby. Moments later, the lights went out. Duda had no choice but to keep working with only a headlamp for light. The lights came back when […]
44 minutes ago
Sheree Perry of Virginia Beach, center, prays with chaplains at a memorial on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022...
Associated Press

City to hold vigil honoring those killed in Walmart shooting

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — The city of Chesapeake, Virginia, has scheduled a candlelight vigil for Monday evening that will honor and remember the victims of last week’s mass shooting at a Walmart store. Six employees were killed and six people were wounded by a store supervisor late Tuesday night in the city of about 250,000 […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pakistan launches new anti-polio drive amid spike in cases

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani authorities launched a new nationwide anti-polio drive on Monday amid a spike in new cases among children, health officials said. It is the sixth such campaign this year and will last for five days, aiming to inoculate children under the age of 5 in high-risk areas. The newest drive was aimed […]
1 day ago
FILE - Payton Gendron is led into the courtroom for a hearing at Erie County Court in Buffalo, N.Y....
Associated Press

Lawyers: Buffalo supermarket gunman plans to plead guilty

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A white gunman who targeted a Buffalo supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood plans to plead guilty on Monday to killing 10 people and wounding three others, according to lawyers representing victims’ relatives. Payton Gendron, 19, is scheduled to appear in Erie County Court for a hearing that was postponed for […]
1 day ago
FILE - An election worker verifies a ballot on a screen inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office...
Associated Press

Arizona counties face deadline to certify 2022 election

PHOENIX (AP) — Six Arizona counties must decide Monday whether to certify 2022 election results amid pressure from some Republicans not to officially approve a vote count that had Democrats winning for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide races. Election results have largely been certified without issue in jurisdictions across the country. That’s not been […]
1 day ago
FILE - House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill i...
Associated Press

McCarthy’s pursuit of speaker’s gavel comes at a high cost

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is in the fight of his political life, grinding through the promises and proposals, cajoling and deal-making necessary to win over reluctant colleagues whose support he needs to become House speaker. Every new commitment from McCarthy can be seen as a potentially strategic move, intended to quell skeptics […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
See it? Squish it! Fighting the invasive spotted lanternfly