Lanternfly Invasion: Should we keep squishing them?

We’ve all been on the hunt to kill the Spotted Lanternfly for years now. First spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014, from China, they have spread to Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia. But is it too late? Are they here to stay?

News has spread to all affected states. Everyone is on the hunt for these spotted red bugs. When you try to squish them, you’ll find it’s not as easy as it looks, and they fly away. But where there’s one, there’s more nearby. One pregnant mother can have 30- 50 offspring. Since they have all grown from the small black bugs by multiples, they huddle into a cluster of large wings that make a mad dash when you get nearby.

A New Jersey student studied the most effective way to kill Lanternflies with her dad. When you approach the bug from the front, it is easier to kill. When you approach it from the back, it is more likely to jump away. Their wings can sense when a predator is nearby. But their eyes struggled to realize that you were on top of them.

The spotted Lanternflies aren’t poisonous or venomous. But they do suck the life out of various species. The situation has been so difficult in Pennsylvania that the state could lose about 2,800 jobs and $324 million annually if the invasive pest is not contained soon, economists from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have predicted. States such as New York are spending millions to eliminate this invasive species.

As the bugs have moved in as new neighbors, Residents are starting to question whether their mass murder throughout the years has been worth it. Although non-native species can cause harm to ecosystems, scientists are asking if they are all bad. Mark Davis, a Macalester College professor and 18 experts urges fellow scientists to examine their treatment of non-native species more critically. They further the argument by comparing “The War on Drugs” to “The War on Non-Native Species.”

An article in The Atlantic titled “Have Americans Been Mercilessly Squashing a Creepy Bug for Nothing?” follows the tiring journey with the Spotted Lanternfly. The article’s author further discusses that scientists have noticed that they aren’t doing as much harm as anticipated. Has the spotted Lanternfly brought communities to their wits in the name of fear, but the damage did not prevail?

More invasive species have been identified, and the narrative has changed. A new species may even help the ecosystem, some say. Gruskin ends her article in The Atlantic with, “Really, no one person can control the world in this way; the spread of non-native species seems, at this point, like a fact of life.” The modern living of transportation, shipping, and travel exposes our ecosystems to the world’s species. Invasive species may remain a fact of life.

Will we remember the Lanternfly alongside the covid pandemic that disrupted our lives and accepted the brunt of our fear? Maybe I have fallen hopelessly in the name of Lanternflies, but I feel bad continuing to stomp out one when 50 of their brothers and sisters sit beside me. Next time you go for the squish, ask yourself, am I moving into the movement where we learn to live with them?

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