If You See a Pretty Spotted Lanternfly, Report It—Then Squash It – BU Today
The invasive bug has Massachusetts environmental officials worried they could spread and cause real agricultural and ecological damage
Not too many bugs are more destructive than the Lycorma delicatula, better known as the spotted lanternfly. An invasive pest native to Asia, it first arrived in the United States seven years ago. It’s a threat to trees, plants, crops, orchards, vineyards, even jobs. And as if that’s not bad enough, it excretes a gross residue known as “honeydew” that can turn into mold, drip sticky substances onto cars and patios, and become dangerously slippery to step on—and it just flat-out stinks when its scent hits your nostrils.
Charming, right? If that sounds like the sort of bug that you just want to squash, many nature lovers would say…go right ahead. Environmental experts are so worried about the damage the spotted lanternfly could wreak on local ecosystems, in some places the public is being advised to kill the bugs as soon as they see them. As the New York Times wrote in a headline, “Die, Beautiful Spotted Lanternfly, Die.” And in Pennsylvania, residents are being told, “Kill it! Squash it, mash it, just get rid of it.”
So when live adult spotted lanternflies were spotted in Fitchburg, Mass., in September—a dozen states now have reported infestations—Jennifer Forman Orth, an environmental biologist at the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, who earned a master’s in energy and environmental studies at Boston University, was suddenly besieged with questions about this invasive bug.
The Brink caught up with Forman Orth to talk about this particular bug, her personal interest in all bugs, and what we should do if we think we’ve seen a dreaded spotted lanternfly.
with Jennifer Forman Orth
The Brink: This isn’t the first time the spotted lanternfly has been spotted in these parts. Why was this discovery more alarming?
Forman Orth: There have now been a dozen different reports since 2018. But they are usually dead, after they hitchhiked in on a vehicle or on goods shipped in. This is the first time spotting an active breeding population. They were observed laying eggs, live adults, in trees on the side of the road in Fitchburg.
The Brink: So breeding is a big deal. But why? How can a bug like this be that threatening?
Forman Orth: There are two big reasons we are concerned. One is the threat to agriculture. The favorite host tree of the lanternfly is the tree of heaven. That grows …….