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The Foreword

The invasion of the spotted lanternflies: A dive into the insects

Cornell.edu
Cornell.edu

Those red bugs with little black spots? Spotted lanternflies. Most people know them as those annoying beetle-like creatures that people are constantly stomping on. In the past year, the bugs have become a major problem. Their infestation has led to population growth which has also killed many plants. The spotted lanternflies have a grey and yellow stomach with two sets of wings. One set is grey with black spots while the other is red with black spots. It also has six legs which help the insect jump spontaneously and glide to new areas if they are in danger or need to move quickly. The lanternfly is a planthopper home to different areas in Vietnam and China. The insect has spread rapidly to the United States, Japan, and South Korea. The flies tend to host on plants like the tree of heaven, where they will suck the nutrients out of them and then plant their eggs for the next season. 

Spotted lanternflies were thought to have come to America around 2012, however, the first known infestation was found in a wooded area in Berks County, Pennsylvania around September 2014. They were believed to have arrived from China on large stone shipments, and once they came to America they started to spread slowly around the country’s east coast in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, and more. 

According to the USDA, lantern flies are classified as an invasive species defined as a “non-native… to the ecosystem… whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” With these insects arriving in new places like America from foreign countries, they are considered as invasive. These bugs go around killing and eating tons of different crops and plants which causes major damage to certain environments and places. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture urges, “If you find any life stage of a spotted lanternfly in a municipality where it is known to exist, you should try to destroy it.” Since they are invasive species, people should always try to kill the bug because “the insect is considered a threat.” If people find the bug or its eggs in an area where it is not formally known to exist they should capture it in a container, kill it, and then alert the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. 

Although spotted lanternflies aren’t specifically dangerous to humans, they are harmful to plants and other crops, affecting produce greatly. This has led to certain foods becoming more expensive and a smaller quantity of them growing. According to Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, grapes are one of the most affected crops, with a single vine carrying up to almost 400 adult spotted lanternflies. Since these insects have started to feed on these vines the plants have had a major decrease in winter hardness, no bloom, or even vine death. 

When talking to high schoolers at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School, sophomore Thomas Aldous said, “Lantern flies are very annoying and I don’t like seeing them. They are all over my trees and around my house. My family and I put tape on the trees to catch them and we stomp on them when we see them.” Many students have repeatedly expressed their dislike for the insect, and others describe how they will do anything to kill them including stomping them or using tape and repellents. 

Lantern flies have become a big enough issue in the community, leading to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture even having to put out an entire section about what to do when people find them. It’s important to try and kill the insects and stop the spread of their eggs. Doing this will decrease the flies’ population and help many crops flourish.

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About the Contributor
Samuel Tobias, Staff Writer
Sam Tobias is a sophomore at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School. He enjoys playing sports and is a member of the Cross Country and Swim Team. In his free time he likes to play video games, hang with friends, and go biking.

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