Shoo, fly: Group builds lanternfly traps

Moorestown students’ goal is to slow spread of invasive species.

Photo courtesy of Vaughn Cultrara. A group of Moorestown students are eager to help eradicate spotted lanternflies and want to get the rest of Moorestown on board. From left to right back row: Colin DiPasquale, Adam Connor, Evan Schaffer, Deven Chakrabarti)
(from left to right front row: Vaughn Cultrara, Rafe Cultrara, Deven Butani) (Not pictured: Elvyn Liu, Dylan Mies, Justin Talbot).

Spotted lanternflies are fairly large, winged critters that we’ve been vehemently told to kill since they first invaded the area in 2014. The invasive insect can cause damage or death to native trees and plants. 

A group of Moorestown High School sophomores is eager to help eradicate the bugs and get the rest of Moorestown on board. They are building traps to spotted lanternflies that they’re eager to donate and install throughout the community.

Vaughn Cultrara, spokesperson for the group, said invasive species cause millions of dollars in damages to crops, trees and the agricultural industry each year. 

The goal is to get the word out to the Moorestown community to see if anyone is interested in having a trap installed on their property, and their current goal is to build at least 100 traps this season. 

“Our mission is to slow down and reduce the spread and the amount of damage that these pests do to the environment,” he said. “There may be eggs on some of the trees in people’s backyards that will start hatching in May, and these traps should help catch and get rid of some of them.”

The traps first came on Cultrara’s radar when he was at a science fair, and he took notice of a girl’s project designed to trap lanternflies. Not long after, he was in his driveway when he spotted a lanternfly, and it piqued his curiosity. He found himself researching the insects and discovered that they cost the government millions of dollars in damage to crops and trees each year. 

Cultrara found a trap design on the Penn State Extension website and assembled a group of his friends to join in. His friends Deven Butani, Elvyn Liu, Rafe Cultrara, Colin DiPasquale, Deven Chakrabarti, Evan Schaffer, Adam Connor, Dylan Mies and Justin Talbot (all of whom are sophomores at MHS except Rafe Cultrara and Chakrabarti who are eighth graders at William Allen Middle School) started off by watching videos to get background information on the flies and looked at traps that others have made to capture them. 

Now, the group gets together to build the traps, and at the same time, design and improve upon them.

To build the traps, the students take a sheet of window screen and attach it to a funnel that water bottles can screw onto. There are two pieces of wood on the outside of the trap that keep it open and sturdy, which also serves as something we can use to attach to the tree. The screen is attached to the tree trunk,and the bugs crawl up and into the bottle that’s screwed into the funnel. From there, the bottles can easily be taken on and off and replaced.

The traps take somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes to build, and students have bought enough supplies to build around 100 traps. While the traps will be on a first-come, first-served basis, the group is also willing to teach people how to create and maintain traps themselves. 

The students encourage the Moorestown community to reach out, either on their Instagram account at @moorestownshoofly or via email at moorestownshoofly@gmail.com. From there, the group will deliver the trap and even install it if requested.