If New Jersey and other tri-state residents have as much enthusiasm for squashing a pest as citizens of Earth did in the film “Starship Troopers,” chances are the continuing invasion of the spotted lanternfly would be over.
It isn’t. The pests continue to increase their presence across eastern Pennsylvania and throughout New Jersey, and increased efforts by residents are still necessary to contain them. The lanternfly is native to Asia and has appeared in Japan and South Korea, as well as in several U.S.states, including Pennsylvania, where it showed up in 2014.
Late last month, the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Burlington County hosted a seminar on what is currently known by experts about the spotted lanternfly, an invasive species that causes serious damages to trees, vines, crops and other plants.
According to the coordinator of the Rutgers Master Gardener Program, Mike Johnson, 13 counties in the state are currently labeled as under quarantine due to the bug, which has established colonies in every state county except Cape May. Warnings about the insect have been frequent – and long-running – in South Jersey.
The spotted lanternfly has also appeared in parts of Delaware, New York, Maryland, Ohio and Indiana. That’s why so many states are taking a “multi-pronged approach” to the problem, according to Johnson, including slowing the insect’s movements to contain it.
“Understand that, unfortunately, they’re here,” he noted. “This is probably something we’re going to have to deal with for a while. This is going to be a multi-pronged, multi-season, multi-year, multi-decade time span of dealing with them … There’s not one solution that takes care of them all, and we’re also still learning about them.”
The bug has no natural predators in the U.S., according to experts at the recent seminar, meaning it is even more important for residents to take note of possible lanternfly egg masses around their yards in the fall, when lanternfly adults start to die out.
According to Johnson and County Agricultural Agent Bill Bamka, a single female spotted lanternfly can produce approximately 35 to 50 eggs, so homeowners are now being asked to scrape egg masses away when they’re noticed.
“This is probably the best time of the year for us to get to work in trying to control these things, when they’re laying their eggs,” Bamka explained. “We’re trying to stop the movement and control these things moving forward. That’s where our efforts are located right now.”
Both Bamka and Johnson advised homeowners not to use household chemicals and not to create so-called “home brews” of mixed chemicals on spotted lanternflies or egg masses, given that there is yet to scientific evidence on the best way to get rid of them – short of stomping on individual lanternflies.
Johnson noted that some insects and birds in the state — such as the praying mantis and robins — have been seen eating the spotted lanternfly, a sign that the environment is adjusting to the lanternfly. But now that the bug is local, it is unlikely to completely disappear, so high and low years in its population count may be something to watch for moving forward.
Johnson and Bamka also said the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has taken the lead on news and facts regarding the spotted lanternfly, and that sightings and additional questions should be directed there.