Summer of the Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted lanternfly in a neighborhood near Schenley Park, 17 July 2022 (photo by Frank Izaguirre)

31 July 2022

When the highly invasive spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) was first discovered in western Pennsylvania in January 2020 it was a non event for most of us. We knew the bug was plaguing eastern Pennsylvania and that Allegheny County became a lanternfly quarantine zone, but for two years most of us never saw one. That changed this summer when many Pittsburghers found them in their own backyards.

Frank Izaguirre’s experience in Oakland is typical. The first one appeared on 17 July but within ten days the number of bugs had grown so fast that finding and killing them, as recommended by the PA Dept of Agriculture(*), became a daunting daily chore.

Annie Quinn noticed them in a park and enlisting her kids to squash them on the ground. Then she looked up and saw hundreds and hundreds coating the upper branches of the trees. “Kids, this problem is much bigger than we are.”

Spotted lanternflies climbing a red maple (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Indeed! I saw hundreds (thousands?) on the North Shore near the Carnegie Science Center on Tuesday 26 July.

Spotted lanternfly on Japanese knotweed near Carnegie Science Center, 26 July 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Julie Urban, an associate professor of entomology at Penn State, said residents of the area will see a lot more lanternflies in September.

“They’re starting to emerge as adults about now and then when they start to mate more heavily you’re going to see a lot more in the first couple weeks of September,” said Urban. “That’s just when they’re more active. So, be ready for that.”

Trib-Live: Spotted Lanternfly numbers way up in Allegheny County

Since each female lanternfly lays an egg mass containing 30-50 eggs, the population grows exponentially every year: 1 > 50 > 2,500 > 125,000 > 6.2 million!

It took just 2.5 years to go from “What’s the problem?” to “Oh my gosh!”

There is no way we can squash them individually. However there are easy ways to passively kill them in our yards. Three years ago a girl in New Jersey came up with a very inexpensive and effective trap.

Other inexpensive do-it-yourself traps are described at these YouTube links: A simple tulle trap, the simplified hoop trap and an elaborate v2 Trap that requires tools. In any case if you make a trap, use netting not glue. Glue tape indiscriminately kills bees, bats and small birds that try to feast on the trapped bugs.

This is our first Summer of the Spotted Lanternfly in Pittsburgh, but it’s not the last.

Read more about the current outbreak at Trib-Live: Spotted Lanternfly numbers way up in Allegheny County.

(*) The PA Dept of Agriculture is encouraging anyone who sees a spotted lanternfly to kill it and report it online here or by calling 1-888-422-3359.

(photos by Frank Izaguirre, Kate St. John and from Wikimedia Commons)

p.s. On 5 August 2022 one landed on my bedroom window on the 6th floor of a highrise. Uh oh!

Spotted lanternfly on my bedroom window, 5 August 2022 (photo by Kate St. John)

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