You walk through campus on a crisp October morning, minding your business, listening to music, and suddenly, you’re struck in the head by a large, red, black and white, jumping moth creature. Yes, that’s the infamous spotted lantern fly making its debut on campus this fall. These insects pose some serious issues to our native vegetation and most importantly crops. Why might a college student be concerned about a harmless bug? If you enjoy a cold beer or a glass of wine, you may want to tune in because these pests are a threat to grape and hop industries.
The spotted lantern fly is an invasive and destructive species from southeast Asia. They are known for the destruction of vegetation and crops. The lantern fly nests in trees and lay large egg masses with 30-50 eggs per mass. The baby insects feast on the tree’s nutrients which slowly kills it. These bugs do have some favorite vegetation, though. Their choice of food is walnut trees, grapes and hops. “These insects eat over 70 different species of plants and especially have a fond love for grapes,” said Temple University ecology professor, Matthew Helmus.
West Chester is currently in a quarantine zone, which means these insects have invaded our county with full force. This pest is notorious for attacking trees by tapping into them with their straw-like mouths and sucking the nutrients from them. The lantern fly then creates a sugary substance that promote black mold to grow— attracting other insects and causing damage to the plants.
West Chester is currently in a quarantine zone, which means these insects have invaded our county with full force.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture urges us to kill these menaces. According to the department’s website, the bugs “… threaten billions of economic impact and hundreds of thousands of jobs for those in the grapes, apple, hops and hardwood industries.” The spotted lantern fly kills our vegetation— from trees, plants and even crops; and more specifically the grape and hop crops. Yes, that means a low supply of wine and beer in our near future.
Several municipalities in that surround areas of West Chester have decided to take action against these insects. In Willistown, Pa. they came up with a fun way to kill the lantern flies. The municipality has launched a “Spotted Lantern fly SMASH-A-THON,” in hopes to eradicate these pests. During the month of October, community members are encouraged to smash as many lantern flies as possible. Pictures of the squashed bugs along with a tally sheet will be considered to win the grand prizes of either the golden, silver or bronze fly swatters.
I understand it is somewhat ruthless to kill these bugs that don’t pose much harm to us physically— but they are killing the vegetation around us. They have invaded the greater Philadelphia area and will only continue to get worse if you don’t do something now.
So, what should you do if you see one? Squish that sucker. Hit them, step on them, run after them— do whatever it takes to kill as many as you can. I ask this of you. Your state asks this of you. More importantly, your favorite brew and bottle asks this of you.
Lindsey Hardy is a student at West Chester University. LH911835@wcupa.edu