Looks can be deceiving – and this saying perfectly applies to the spotted lanternfly. This little insect will surely catch your attention. Its forewing is gray with a polka dot-like pattern of black spots. When it opens its wings, however, you will see nice bright colors and patterns. Its hind wings have contrasting patches of red and black and also have the same polka dot pattern as the forewing, while its abdomen has a yellow color with black bands. Looking at it, you would not think that this pretty little insect is a destroyer of worlds. But the first thing you have to do when you see this thing is to smash it.
What does it do?
In a nutshell, spotted lanternflies destroy trees relentlessly. They can feed on a wide variety of trees, making it very easy for them to grow in numbers and spread destruction. These insects can cause tree dieback, wilting, leaf curling, and oozing sap. Aside from damaging trees, spotted lanternflies produce a sugary substance called honeydew that promotes black sooty mold growth. Humans are unaffected by this mold, but it is harmful to plants.
The spotted lanternfly was first found in Pennsylvania last 2014 and has affected the livelihood of tree growers in the State since then. It is considered an invasive species originating from China and Southeast Asia. Being an invasive species, it has no natural predator in its new environment, allowing them to proliferate. Scientists fear that if they are undealt with, the spotted lanternfly can cost the State of Pennsylvania at least $324 million annually and the loss of more than 2800 jobs.
Should we be worried about the lanternfly in California?
Yes. It is very likely for this insect to make its way to California. The question here is when will it arrive. It is really up to us to deal with the problem and control the damage it can do. We have to protect America’s agricultural engine that produces $50 billion a year.
Here in California, we have border protection stations that screen passenger vehicles and commercial shipments. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has the spotted lanternfly under its radar ever since it was first found in Pennsylvania. The State is unique in this regard. No other State can keep the lanternfly out as California can. The pest prevention system in the State will prevent all possible pests from coming inside.
However, there is still another problem. The spotted lanternfly may come from overseas through our international ports. California is America’s gateway to trade with Asia, and the insect originally came from there. To combat lanternflies, the University of California is already researching bio-interventions to deploy against the spotted lanternfly before they even arrive.
What can we do?
As futile as it may sound, the only thing we can do right now is to be keen for these little insects. We cannot eradicate what we cannot see. As of today, there hasn’t been any sighting of the spotted lanternfly in California. But it is possible that they are just hiding in plain sight. If ever you see a spotted lanternfly, you have to report it to the authorities as soon as possible.
Simple traps and lures remain to be our first line of defense against this destroyer. Pesticides are also still viable as it can deal with pests in general, but they are expensive. Until the bio-control agent under development goes up and running, we will have to rely on these methods.
We at Rocklin Pest Control can help you prepare for their arrival, which is only a matter of time.
(Source: Smithsonian Magazine)