To stomp or not to stomp?


Pale wings with dark spots spread on an inch-long bug. The wings reveal the deep scarlett that is hidden. The spotted lanternfly soars straight up, knowing it must escape its death: a human foot!

Spotted lanternflies are an invasive species that are currently invading America. Many state governments have created action plans to help get rid of them. So what is all of the fuss really about?

Spotted lanternflies are an invasive species that found their way from China to Pennsylvania in 2014. They are an insect known for the bright red in their wings that can only be seen when they fly. They have been multiplying across the East coast and harming many plants and trees. This is very dangerous for our ecosystem. In China, lanternflies’ main predator is a praying mantis, but in the U.S. those are a bit harder to find. 

An invasive species is an animal or plant that is native to one area, but ends up in a different place. Once in a different place the species takes over and disrupts the ecosystem, setting it off balance. In their native habitats there are usually other species that prevent the population from growing out of control, but once in a new habitat an invasive species can take over since nothing is stopping them. 

Spotted lantern flies are currently feasting on many plants, including fruit, oak, maple, and pine trees as well as Trees of Heaven and grapevines. 

Aimee Greenstein is a gardener in Brooklyn, New York. She currently tends to potted plants in her building’s garden. Although the lanternflies don’t affect the types of plant that she grows, she believes that they are a “threat to agriculture in the United States.” 

She explains that “eradicating it quickly in the United States is really really important” because “it’s really dangerous when species cross over through non natural means.” Aimee goes on to say that there are many plants that haven’t built a defense against spotted lanternflies (or any other invasive species), so they are so easily destroyed. 

“You have got to stomp on them,” Aimee stresses. Stomping on one female lanterfly prevents 30-50 more from hatching. 

Many people disagree with Aimee though because sometimes it is hard to believe that just killing one will make any difference. 

Another reason why people might not want to kill them is because, according to Aimee, “they’re so beautiful, they’re so pretty!” It is true that an adult spotted lanternfly is so vibrant, so sometimes killing them may seem cruel. Many animal rights activists and vegans don’t kill them for this very reason. 

But according to a New York Times article, “Those tasked with protecting agriculture say sympathy for the lanternfly is misguided.” 

The same article states that “their numbers have grown. A 2021 study by researchers at Lafayette College, in Easton Penn., indicated that eradication efforts focusing on the insect’s ability to reproduce are among those most likely to make a dent.”

After hatching, spotted lanternflies don’t have wings yet and are smaller than half an inch. Lanternflies at this stage are called nymphs. Nymphs go through four stages before becoming an adult lanternfly. Luckily, Aimee hasn’t seen any of those crawling around her building’s garden.

Aimee only started noticing them around Brooklyn this year, but for Christene Trottere in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, spotted lantern fly sightings emerged earlier.

Christine started noticing them in her neighborhood last year: “I definitely saw more last summer than I did this year.” This makes sense because spotted lanternflies invaded New Jersey before invading New York. 

Like many other towns in America, Christine’s town has taken action to get rid of them by putting, “signs in parks around here about what to do when you see them.” She says that there is definitely, “publicity around it.” 

Along with many other people though, she doesn’t “feel comfortable” killing spotted lantern flies, but she says that she sees, “other people do it all of the time.”

Although Christine lives in a very wooded area she says, “I haven’t seen it impacting where I live.” She still acknowledges the threat of this pest, even if she is not seeing them directly affect her neighborhood: “it destroys trees and stuff and that’s not good.”

One way that you can help prevent spotted lanternflies from making it through the winter is by starting at the beginning with their eggs. While adult lanternflies may struggle to survive cold east coast winters, their eggs can. This is why it is very important to eliminate egg masses at the start of the season. 

You can kill spotted lanternfly eggs by scraping them off the tree (or surface) that they are on and placing them into a plastic bag that contains either hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol. 

Lanternfly eggs look like gray masses that aren’t really a specific shape at first, but after a while the outer layer breaks revealing clean rows of eggs. 

“The egg mass is notoriously difficult to spot as it is perfectly disguised as a blotch of dried mud,” says Molly Schafer at Mt. Cuba Center.

The article also highlights the invasive species characteristic by saying, “ “In the U.S. spotted lanternflies have no natural predators.” 

“We have seen this before,” points out Ms. Brown, a science teacher (and person involved in the rooftop garden) at the iSchool. “We have lost tree species before,” she says and explains that, “it’s always a bad thing to lose biodiversity. So that is a dangerous thing.”

Ms. Brown believes that stomping on lanternflies isn’t the answer, she says that it is, “not sustainable there are too many of them now.” She thinks that there needs to be, “a more governmental, wide spread eradication program.” 

She makes a good point, although stomping on them won’t do harm, the government could take more action for more widespread results. According to Ms. Brown, “that is not happening.”

Government involvement is critical for solving problems connected to invasive species and Ms. Brown thinks that they are, “not handling it correctly.”

Luckily,  the iSchool’s garden has not been affected. 

Many people are hoping that this upcoming winter (that is predicted to be particularly cold) will help solve the problem, but Ms. Brown disagrees: “I think it’s not going to stop them,” since the eggs have made it through winters before.

It may not be the solution, but the next time you see a group of kids stomping on the ground in the middle of the street, just remember, they are not just kids, they are pest control!