In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Burlington County Parks System recently demonstrated to residents how to scrape away Spotted Lanternfly egg masses.
Volunteers learned how to easily identify and destroy the eggs from a USDA plant health safety specialist, and learned why spotted lanternflies threaten biodiversity within the county’s parks. According to naturalist Gina DiMaio, the parks system estimates that roughly 1,500 egg masses have been destroyed.
“The real main focus here is while the spotted lanternfly won’t necessarily kill our trees, they will stress them,” she explained. “Their excrement creates a honeydew that attracts a sooty mold, but the real issue with the Spotted Lanternflies is their threat to agriculture … And we have a wealth of agriculture and farmers here.”
According to usda.gov, the lanternfly was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2014. It feeds on a wide range of fruit, ornamental and woody trees, with tree-of-heaven being one of its preferred hosts.
Spotted Lanternflies are invasive and can be spread long distances by people who move infested material or items containing egg masses. If allowed to spread in the states, the Lanternfly could seriously impact the country’s grape, orchard and logging industries.
“They’re particularly detrimental to orchards and vineyards, very specific different types of crops, and they excrete the sugars,” DiMaio said. “They’re a sucking type of insect, a plant hopper, so that will be very detrimental to the different fruits and then you have a poor crop.”
Residents Kathy and John Cipollone were happy to help destroy egg masses at the county’s agricultural center.
“I know there’s a lot of them (Spotted Lanternflies) around now, compared to what there used to be,” John noted. “Within the last couple of years, I’ve seen a lot of them hatch in the springtime, where we didn’t have that problem before.”
“When we would (go) out to dinner outside, they were just kind of bombarding us down on the Rancocas,” Kathy recalled.
According to usda.gov, starting in the fall, Spotted Lanternflies seek out outdoor surfaces and lay mud-like egg masses on tree bark, gear like bikes and grills, methods of transport and others. Sycamore, pine and maple trees, among others, are at risk.
Medford resident Leslie Jones voiced her concern over the insects.
“Well, since I hike at all of the Burlington County parks, I noticed the infestation and the damage that they were doing, especially the black sap that was falling from their debris, and it just concerned me,” she said. “I didn’t want to see our parks have that infestation of the Lanternflies.”
DiMaio pointed to areas in the county populated with more egg masses than others.
“They primarily are affecting our parks that are more on the western side of the county, closer to the Delaware River,” she pointed out. “ … Amico Island, Pennington Park, those areas were heavily infested compared to Historic Smithville, which is a little bit more east.”
The next egg scraping session will be held on Saturday, March 18, at Pennington Park. The session starts at 10 a.m. and registration is required.
“It’s just great to have that sense of community, and (see) that people have that sense of stewardship and want to advocate for our parks and get involved and they want to learn,” DiMaio said.