Don’t let its cute and colorful exterior fool you; this thing is a stone-cold killer.
It’s the spotted lanternfly, an invasive species from Southeast Asia. It came to America sometime in 2012 and was officially detected by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in 2014. They banned all transport of anything that could harbor the leafhopper-type insect, including firewood, lawnmowers, outdoor chairs, trucks, and RVs, but by then it was already too late. Now the spotted lanternfly has shown up in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia.
But Philadelphia has it the worst. There, trees can be seen absolutely coated in the four-winged insect. They tap their little proboscis beneath the bark of a tree and suck out its life-giving sap, leaving a mass of sticky “honey dew” at the tree’s base.
If it were just one or two of these parasitic insects, the tree would be fine. But hundreds can be fatal.
The spotted lanternfly has become a huge problem for both local residents and Pennsylvania's $18 billion agricultural industry. They're particularly fond of fruit trees, grapevines, and industrial timber farms.
It's gotten so bad that Pennsylvania has started encouraging local residents to form citizen militia against the insect. One man even converted a shop vac into a bug-sucking machine that kills thousands in a single day--but the spotted lanternflies just keep coming back a seemingly inexhaustible foe.
In Southeast Asia, species of parasitic wasps help to keep that spotted lanternfly in check. Such wasps don't exist here in North America, and with the massive die-off of bird species on this content, there's nothing to keep the spotted lanternfly from running wild.
Please do NOT call 911 to report #SpottedLanternfly sightings. While they are a nuisance, they are not a police issue. And on that note, we, for one, would like to welcome our new insect overlords. Maybe they would like to build some nests on our vast concrete headquarters? pic.twitter.com/PXmCs4db0f— Philadelphia Police (@PhillyPolice) September 12, 2019
According to the Associated Press, researchers at Penn State University are looking into a form of native fungi that caused a mass die-off in Berks County as a means of controlling the spotted lanternfly, but they're still a ways off from producing a defense.
In the meantime, social media has started to address the problem in the only way it can: humor. The Philly Police Department warned residents that emergency services can’t respond to lanternfly infestations and they in fact “welcome their new insect overlords.” Voice actor Chris Roman recorded his own fake documentary about the Great Lanternfly War, casting himself as a historical general against the insects.
(source: Associated Press)