Burlington County is looking for a few good bug killers to enlist in the defense against the invasive spotted lanternfly.
All it takes is a scraper, plastic zipper bags and some alcohol or hand sanitizer.
The Burlington County Parks System and Rutgers Cooperative Extension began recruiting volunteers to remove egg masses from trees in County parks and neighborhoods throughout the county this month as part of the ongoing battle against these plant-destroying pests.
Residents can sign up to volunteer and receive a “Beat the Bug” plastic card to use to remove egg masses, as well as a time sheet to record the locations where the egg masses were located and destroyed. Sign up here.
Nearly two dozen residents have already enlisted in the seek-and-destroy mission and county officials are encouraging more people to devote some time this winter to hunting the invasive pests’ eggs before the bugs hatch and begin wreaking havoc on trees and plant crops.
“Burlington County is renown across the state and beyond for its scenic parks, forests and farms. We all need to work together to protect these precious resources from the spotted lanternfly menace,” said Commissioner Linda Hynes, the Board’s liaison to the Department of Resource Conservation and the County Parks System.
The lanternfly is an invasive, non-native insect from Asia with an appetite for fruit trees, ornamental trees, woody trees, vegetables, herbs, grapes and vines. Infected plants are recognizable because the bugs excrete a sticky mess on leaves, branches and bark that tend to make the plants appear to ooze or weep. Some may even develop a fermented odor.
Destroying egg masses
Destroying egg masses is not difficult once you locate them. Masses tend to look like a smear of mud or pressed and dried bubblegum and they can be found on tree trunks and branches, plants or even furniture, siding, decks, sheds, and windowsills
To destroy an egg mass, squash and then scrape them with a plastic card or knife so the eggs fall into a plastic zip bag containing alcohol or hand sanitizer. The County Parks System and Cooperative Extension have posted a video demonstration here.
After scraping the eggs into the zipper bag, care should be taken to make sure the eggs have contact with the alcohol and hand sanitizer, as it ensures the nymphs inside are killed and cannot hatch. Just scraping the eggs to the ground does not ensure they are destroyed.
“It may sound icky to some, but it’s not that difficult and is vitally important for the protection of the county’s trees and crops,” Hynes said. “While there are ways to control spotted lanternfly all year round, the winter months are a critical time because the bugs’ egg masses haven’t yet hatched. Eliminating them now offers the best chance to control the population and the plant damage they cause, so we’re asking residents to spend some time outside and help search for and destroy these invaders.”
The bugs have proven to be a formidable pest. They were first spotted in Burlington County in 2019 and were sighted in all 12 of the County parks last year, with significant numbers reported within Amico Island Park in Delran, Pennington Park in Delanco and Boundary Creek in Moorestown.
Sightings have become so widespread that Burlington County is now considered a quarantine county with Camden, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Salem, Somerset and Warrens. Sightings in those counties do not need to be reported to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, but residents and workers are encouraged to inspect their vehicles, trailers and other outdoor items when driving to a location outside the quarantine zone.
Residents are also encouraged to be on the lookout for the bugs during all their life cycles and attempt to kill them if able.
“The spotted latternfly is an excellent hitchhiker that has succeeded in spreading around Burlington County and much of New Jersey already,” said William Bamka, the Burlington County Agricultural and Resource Management Agent with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension. “They pose a significant threat to New Jersey trees and crops so we’re encouraging everyone to lend a hand in the effort to stop their growth.”