Amy Lee/Alamy Stock Photo (lanternflies); GH Photos/Alamy Stock Photo (lanternfly); Jim McMahon/Mapman® (map); Shutterstock.com (all other images)

Stop This Bug

Spotted lanternflies can cause major damage. Can we stop these pests from spreading across the country?

As You Read, Think About: What are ways you can help stop the spread of lanternflies?

Last September, a student entered a science project at the Kansas State Fair. His bug collection earned the boy a blue ribbon. It also sparked a statewide bug hunt!   

The collection included an insect called the spotted lanternfly. One of the judges at the fair recognized it as an invasive species. That’s an animal or a plant that moves into an area and harms native species. The fair in central Kansas was hundreds of miles away from the nearest known lanternfly infestation. Fair officials were alarmed and alerted local authorities.

Lanternflies have also been spotted in at least 10 other states. Experts are trying to stop them from spreading to other parts of the country. They say you can help—by stomping the plant-eating pests. 

“If you see one, the first thing you should do is kill it,” says George Hamilton. He’s an entomologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Last September, a student entered a science project at the Kansas State Fair. His bug collection earned him a blue ribbon. It also sparked a statewide bug hunt!

The collection included an insect called the spotted lanternfly. One of the judges at the fair recognized it. He knew it was an invasive species. That’s an animal or a plant that moves into an area and harms native species. The fair in central Kansas was hundreds of miles away from the nearest known lanternfly infestation. Fair officials were worried. They told local authorities.

Lanternflies have also been spotted in at least 10 other states. Experts are trying to stop them from spreading across the country. They say you can help—by stomping the plant-eating pests. 

“If you see one, the first thing you should do is kill it,” says George Hamilton. He’s an entomologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Amy Lee/Alamy Stock Photo (lanternflies); GH Photos/Alamy Stock Photo (lanternfly)

A cluster of spotted lanternfly eggs

World Travelers

Spotted lanternflies are native to China. Scientists believe the insects arrived in the United States aboard a shipping container. The first lanternfly found in the U.S. was spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014.

“They’re very good hitchhikers,” says Hamilton. “Most people don’t even know they’ve got them.” 

Since the first lanternfly hitched a ride to the U.S., the population has exploded. The insects reproduce rapidly, laying between 30 and 50 eggs at a time. Swarms of lanternflies have invaded towns, covering trees and plants. 

Spotted lanternflies are native to China. Scientists believe the insects arrived in the United States aboard a shipping container. The first lanternfly found in the U.S. was spotted in 2014. It was seen in Pennsylvania.

“They’re very good hitchhikers,” says Hamilton. “Most people don’t even know they’ve got them.” 

Since the first lanternfly hitched a ride to the U.S., the population has exploded. The insects reproduce quickly. They lay between 30 and 50 eggs at a time. Swarms of lanternflies have invaded towns. They cover trees and plants. 

Feeding Frenzy

The good news is these pests don’t harm humans or animals. The bad news is they harm plants and trees. Lanternflies feast on more than 70 species of plants. They have damaged grape, apple, and peach crops.

Lanternflies don’t chew leaves or bark. Instead, they suck out the nutrients that the plants need to survive. After eating, the bugs produce a sugary substance called honeydew. It can cause mold to grow and hurt the plants even more.

In Pennsylvania, lanternflies cause about $50 million in damage each year. Experts say that number could grow to $325 million if the bugs spread throughout the state.

The good news is these pests don’t harm humans or animals. The bad news is they harm plants and trees. Lanternflies feast on more than 70 species of plants. They have damaged grape, apple, and peach crops.

Lanternflies don’t chew leaves or bark. Instead, they suck out nutrients. Plants need those nutrients to survive. After eating, the bugs produce a sugary substance. It’s called honeydew. It can cause mold to grow. The mold hurts the plants even more.

In Pennsylvania, lanternflies cause about $50 million in damage each year. Experts say that number could grow. It can go up to $325 million if the bugs spread throughout the state.

What Can You Do?

Native species help fight off lanternflies. Predators like spiders, praying mantises, and birds hunt the bugs.

But experts say that’s not enough and that you may be one of the best defenses against the winged invaders. In the early spring, most lanternflies are in the egg stage. Officials suggest scraping off and getting rid of egg clusters you see on tree trunks or patio furniture. 

Hatched lanternflies will be adults by summer. If you live in an area where they’ve been seen, check your car before traveling to make sure you’re not carrying bugs to a new area. And if you see one, step on it.

“I don’t think we’ll completely solve the problem,” Hamilton says. “But at least we can help.”

Native species help fight off lanternflies. Predators like spiders, praying mantises, and birds hunt the bugs.

But experts say that’s not enough. You may be one of the best defenses against the winged invaders. In the early spring, most lanternflies are in the egg stage. Officials suggest scraping off and getting rid of egg clusters you see on tree trunks or patio furniture. 

Hatched lanternflies will be adults by summer. If you live in an area where they’ve been seen, check your car before traveling. Make sure you’re not carrying bugs to a new area. And if you see one, step on it.

“I don’t think we’ll completely solve the problem,” Hamilton says. “But at least we can help.”

  1. Why does entomologist George Hamilton say that spotted lanternflies are “good hitchhikers”?
  2. What are two ways that lanternflies harm plants?
  3. Summarize the sidebar, “Leave Us Alone.”
  1. Why does entomologist George Hamilton say that spotted lanternflies are “good hitchhikers”?
  2. What are two ways that lanternflies harm plants?
  3. Summarize the sidebar, “Leave Us Alone.”
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