You’ve heard about them. You’ve seen them. And if you’re a ride-or-die Pennsylvanian, you’ve already killed at least one.
The spotted lanternfly has descended upon our favorable state, infecting our crops with disastrous mold and generally just looking ugly in places we would prefer they not.
Believe it or not, this actually isn’t the first year the invasive insects are landing on American shores. Common for a long time in various parts of Asia, the lanternfly was first seen in Pennsylvania in September 2014.
Even if you’ve been trying, it’s hard to avoid these pests in the news right now. But there are likely some “fun” facts you’ve been missing. Read on for some further explanation on the creepy-crawlies, plus a few details you never knew you needed.
Q: Why is now the time to freak out over ugly bugs?
A: This is when the spotted lanternfly starts laying eggs. Their breeding season begins in late September/early October, and they can lay masses of 30 to 50 eggs at once — usually on trees, big rocks, bricks or even outdoor furniture.
That lanternfly caviar poses the biggest risk of accidentally bringing the invasion to a new community, infecting it with the speckled scourge.
The bugs are so intensely dangerous to our state’s wildlife — which hasn’t had a chance to evolve natural defenses against them — that the counties where they’ve appeared are under an actual, real quarantine.
There are 14 counties under lockdown, enforced by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. That means residents have to inspect all materials they move in and out of the counties.
Also, businesses are required to obtain special permits if they want to transport things in or out of the lanternfly zone during the course of their work.
Last month, five counties in western New Jersey were put under quarantine too.
There’s a reason government authorities are lashing out against this thing.
The invasive species is super problematic for local flora. Basically, while the spotted lanternfly feeds on the sap of roughly 65 species of trees and plants, it also poops all over it — and the feces attracts a type of mold that will slowly weaken and kill the plant. Rude.
Fuel for your next nightmare: at just one inch long, an adult spotted lanternfly can jump three meters. THREE METERS.
That’s why their wings are usually closed. They rarely need to use them, because their quad strength is apparently unparalleled.
Billy Penn illustration
The creepy contagion has gotten so serious that epidemiologists want a measurable understanding. So when you see the spotted lanternfly — or one of its egg nests — make sure you report it to the bug experts at Penn State. They’ll use the crowdsourced info to try to stop the spread.
Don’t know which one of you actually did this but… don’t call the police on the bugs. They’re just as freaked out as the rest of us.
Among the plants that the lanternfly munches on are grapes and hops. These are better known by the more popular products they contribute to: wine and beer. Penn State researchers have reportedly confirmed that the state’s $4.8 billion booze industry is at risk should the pests continue to proliferate.
So for the sake of the drinks, squash the damn things.
Is it Halloween yet? A Philly wedding photographer released his own short film (read: one minute long) documenting the spotted lanternfly. It went live on Thursday, centering around a protagonist whose personal mission is to kill them all.
Advice from the experts: don’t use just anything to do away with the tiny crawlers. Some weapons are less effective than others.
If you’ve found a lanternfly on a small tree, where it’s feasible to scrape off all the eggs on your own, then do that. Cut down the next generation before it comes to pass. You can use a debit card to scrape off the blobs of eggs. Drop ’em in a plastic bag filled with alcohol, and you’re golden.
Timeless classics: the bottom of your shoe is a great murder weapon. Same with brooms.
And if you can get your hands on them, some essential oils will do the trick. Neem oil, which is sold as an all-natural fungicide apparently works like a charm against the real-life cooties.
Tools like tape and homemade insecticides aren’t proven to work — and they can hurt other wildlife in the process. So steer clear of those.
If one good thing has come of the pests, it’s a newfound community.
This proves, for once and for all, the unique and unrelenting ability of Philadelphians to unite around something terrible. Go Birds.