(NEW YORK) — Scientists have a message about the spotted lanternfly: If you see one, squash it.
While that may sound harsh for insect enthusiasts, experts say spotted lanterns can be devastating to agriculture.
“It’s a good idea if you can kill them, to do it,” Brian Eshenaur, senior extension associate for ornamental crops in Cornell University’s pest management division, told ABC News.
The New York City Department of Parks offers similar guidance on its website.
“Harming wildlife in our city is largely prohibited, but in an effort to slow the spread of this troublesome species, current guidelines remain: If you see a spotted lanternfly, please crush and eradicate this invasive pest,” says the Department.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation launched a program this year to train volunteers to identification and monitoring of invasive species in the state.
The invasive species is native to Asia but was first discovered in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014 and shortly thereafter in other northeastern states including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.
The insect, scientifically known as Lycorma delicatula, feeds on at least 70 different species of trees, as well as vines and shrubs, including fruit trees, vines and several hardwoods, according to a report from the University of Michigan.
According to experts, the lantern is not dangerous for humans and pets. The insect is considered more of a nuisance since it does not bite or sting.
So if you’re planning to be on the lookout for Mottled Lanterns this summer, here are some key things to know.
Keep an eye on backyards and parks
The insects congregate in large numbers and can be found in yard trees and in parks, where they feed on trees and ooze a sugary substance called honeydew, which can then cause sooty mold that can land on furniture garden or your car, Eshenaur said.
The female lantern fly can lay between 30 and 50 eggs each, usually between September and October. The eggs hatch in the spring, where baby lanterns called nymphs emerge, before becoming fully developed around July, according to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board.
They promote warmer temperatures
Climate change could make the problem worse, experts say.
“The spotted lanternfly needs a long growing season to complete its life cycle,” Eshenaur said. “With earlier spring frosts and later fall frosts, this could promote lantern development and increase the range in which it can survive.”
Insect development depends on temperature, Kelly Oten, an assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University, told ABC News.
“When the temperature is warm, their development increases, which means they will actively feed for longer periods of time, potentially causing more damage,” Oten said.
They threaten agriculture
Wine lovers, here is some bad news.
The spotted lanternfly can be devastating to the multi-billion dollar wine industry because it feeds on grapes, reducing their harvests and lowering the quality of the grapes, according to Oten.
Overall, they pose a huge threat to agriculture. If the species were to spread through Pennsylvania, the expected losses to the state’s economy would be nearly $554 million per year and could result in the loss of 4,987 jobs, according to an impact study by 2019 from Penn State University.
For forestry, the estimated economic loss could reach $152.6 million annually across Pennsylvania, according to the study.
What to do if you see one
Killing the pest if you encounter it is not the only way to fix the problem.
People should check outdoor items for mottled lantern eggs, which may look like a lump coated in gray wax. Scrape them off, put the mass in a plastic zip-top bag with hand sanitizer and throw it away, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
Although Mottled Lanterns cannot kill trees, they can damage them. People can also use insecticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, which can kill lanterns and not harm trees.
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