What to Know About Spotted Lanterns, Insect Experts Tell Squishy

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Scientists have a message about the Spotted Lantern: If you see one, squeeze it.

While this may sound harsh to bug lovers, experts say speckled lanterns can be devastating to agriculture.

“It’s a good idea to do that if you can kill them,” Brian Aschenauer, a senior extension associate for ornamental crops in Cornell University’s Department of Pest Management, told ABC News.

The New York City Parks Department provides similar guidance on its website.

The department says, “Harming to our city’s wildlife is widely prohibited, but in an effort to slow the spread of this troublesome species, the current guidance remains: If you see a spotted lantern, please visit this site.” Crush and dispose of the invasive insect.”

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of Environmental Protection and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation started a program To train volunteers to identify and track invasive species in the state this year.

The invasive species originated in Asia, but was first found in the US in 2014 in Pennsylvania and soon thereafter in other states in the Northeast, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.

A lantern fly is seen on the ceiling of an apartment in New York City, August 8, 2022. The NY State Department of Agriculture is encouraging residents to kill the invasive speckled lantern.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The insect, scientifically known as Lycorma delicatula, feeds on at least 70 different species of trees, as well as vines and shrubs, including fruit trees, vines, and many hardwoods. according to a report from the University of Michigan.

Experts say that the lantern is not dangerous to people and pets. Insects are seen as more of a nuisance because they do not bite or sting.

So if you plan to be on the lookout for spotted lanterns this summer, here are some important things to know.

Keep an eye out in backyards and parks

The insects congregate in large numbers and can be found in backyard trees and parks, where they feed on trees and release a sugary substance called honeydew, which can then cause a soot that can be found on lawn furniture or Can get on your car, said Ashenour.

The female lantern fly can lay 30 to 50 eggs, usually between September and October. According to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, the eggs are released in the spring, where baby lanternflies, called nymphs, hatch before fully developing around July.

Photo: Downtown Improvement District Ambassador Team Leader Sol M.  Colon sprays speckled lanterns with soap solution in Reading, Pa., Aug. 21, 2018.
Downtown Improvement District Ambassador Team Leader Sol M. Colon sprays speckled lanterns with soap solution in Reading, Pa., Aug. 21, 2018.

Reading Eagle, FILE via Getty Images

they favor warmer temperatures

Experts say climate change could exacerbate the problem.

“The speckled lantern requires a long growing season to complete its life cycle,” Aschenauer said. “With earlier spring and later frosts that could have favored the development of lanternflies and increased the range in which they could survive.”

Insect development depends on temperature, Kelly Otten, an assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University, told ABC News.

“As temperatures warm, their growth increases, which means they’re going to actively feed for longer periods of time, potentially causing more damage,” Otten said.

They are a threat to agriculture

There is bad news for wine lovers.

According to Otten, Spotted Lanterns could be disastrous for the multi-billion-dollar wine industry as they eat the grapes, deplete their crops and reduce the quality of the grapes.

Overall, they are a major threat to agriculture. If the species were to spread through Pennsylvania, the estimated damage to the state economy would be approximately $554 million per year and potentially 4,987 jobs could be lost, According to the 2019 impact study from Penn State University.

The study found that for forestry, the estimated economic loss could be up to $152.6 million annually across Pennsylvania.

PHOTO: Temple University's Dee De Kesher, a master gardener, scrapes lantern egg pieces from a tree at the Berks County Agriculture Center in Burns Township, PA, April 5, 2019.
Temple University’s Dee De Kesher, a master gardener, scrapes a lantern egg mass from a tree at the Berks County Agricultural Center in Burns Township, PA, April 5, 2019.

Reading Eagle, FILE via Getty Images

what to do if you see someone

If you do encounter an insect, killing it isn’t the only way to solve the problem.

People should check external objects for speckled lantern eggs, which may look like a brown wax-covered mass. Scrape them off, put the mass in a plastic zippered bag with hand sanitizer and throw it out, US Department of Agriculture it is said.

While spotted lantern flies cannot kill trees, they can harm them. People can also use insecticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, which can kill lantern flies and not harm trees.

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