In the midst of a pandemic and intense election, an invasion on U.S. soil has gone widely unnoticed for almost three years now.
For those who are not aware, lycorma delicatula, otherwise known as the spotted lanternfly, is the invader. Spotted lanternflies are an invasive species, hailing from Asia, that feed on tree sap. The problem is there are not enough predators to kill the lanternfly as fast as they can reproduce.
“We don’t know much about their effects on the wider eco-system,” commented Emelie Swackhamer, horticulture extension teacher at Penn State. Some birds eat them, so will it help that species to flourish? Some stinging insects collect their honey dew, so will this new food source help those insects? Important questions to ask while assessing the threat, however immediate damage to trees and other plants is still a very real threat.
They have even been documented killing grape vines and walnut tree saplings. “I bore witness to the damage firsthand that a nest these lanternflies can cause, decaying tree bases, insects everywhere clus-tered together in their swarm. The trees tend to drip a foul-smelling sap when they are being drained,” said Swackhamer.
Suzana Schiever, weekend security guard at Falls Township community park, recalled that suddenly one day in the summer, “We were told to scrape their eggs off the tree with our credit cards, and I just thought that’s kind of gross I don’t want to get my card dirty.” Schiever stated how they don’t seem to nest in the park, however when she goes to the city she notices them a lot more.
For whatever reason they don’t infest the park is still unclear. Perhaps they just aren’t doing their due diligence at the park, or maybe they don’t colonize in areas that people often go to. “When did it become our responsibility to deal with it and how did they get into our country? Did they sneak in with wood because all of that stuff should be checked for insects,” said Schiever.
The American government has had plenty of experience with invasive species and they are aware of the danger they present, as there is an invasive species advisory. So why has this issue been flying under the radar for three years now? If we are supposed to have systems in place to stop the issue, why can’t people go for a walk outside without seeing dozens of these foreign invaders flying around?
Regardless of what should have been done or who should have solved this problem, what’s important now is that everybody keeps their eyes peeled for these pests. If you spot a lanternfly or any of its eggs you should take a picture, kill them and call 1-888-4BADFLY, especially if you are outside of one of the quar-antine zones they have set up to control the outbreak.