Spot a Lanternfly? Squish Away!

Jun 26, 2023

The New York Times headline said it all: “Spotted Lanternflies are Back. You Should Still Kill Them.” Indeed, New Yorkers continue to wage war against the invasive species. Summer’s warm weather has the Big Apple and nearby states crawling with lanternflies again this year.   

The hated bugs arrived in the US from Asia in 2020. They quickly made a home in the Northeast. Throughout the month of June, lanternflies appear as nymphs. They're black with polka dots. They cling by the thousands to vines, branches, and leaves. In July, they will mature into one of nature’s prettier pests. Adults have black-speckled outer wings that spread to show a splash of bright orange and red. It’s as adults that they pose the biggest threat. They don't hurt humans. But they’ve already done millions of dollars of damage to plant life.  

"The lanternfly goes for everything, and the big agricultural one that we really don't want it getting into is the grapes. It likes grapes," Joseph Spagna told CBS New York. He's a professor of biology at William Paterson University. 

While “everything” is a bit extreme, lanternflies threaten dozens of plant species. The have dagger-like mouthparts. They use these to pierce soft stems and get sap, often killing the plant in the process. Their waste also encourages harmful mold growth that can finish off weakened plants.  

The US Department of Agriculture’s advice? “If you see it, squish it.” This mantra has turned many New Englanders into eager bug-stompers. The strategy hasn’t worked thus far, though. Spagna remains doubtful that it will.  

"Squashing it may have some appeal, sort of visceral appeal, but I don't think we're going to ever squash an insect into control," Spagna said.

Photo by US Department of Agriculture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Reflect: An invasive species is a plant or animal that makes its home in a location that it’s not normally found. How could an invasive species affect an ecosystem?

What is the role of the story’s headline? (Common Core RI.5.4; RI.6.4)
a. to describe the physical characteristics of spotted lanternflies
b. to describe the ongoing efforts of New Yorkers in combating the invasive species
c. to highlight the danger of spotted lanternflies to crops
d. to draw the reader’s attention and emphasize the importance of eliminating spotted lanternflies
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