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Have You Spotted Spotted Lanternflies?

Last year in Randolph, NJ, you couldn’t walk the parking lot at the high school without one of them flying into you. This year? Haven’t really seen more than one or two. Central Park is getting swarms of them. Bergen County homes are being overrun. The Rutgers New Brunswick campus is saying they aren’t seeing any. Tons in Stamford, Connecticut. And the Jersey Shore is not getting any relief from them either. What’s going on with this new pest?

Where Have the Spotted Lanternflies Gone

Why is the spotted lanternfly population so sporadic this year and last when 2022 was so very full of them? We spoke to Jennifer Brumfield, our Board Certified Entomologist and Division Technician Director and she had a lot to say about them. The bad news is, she said they could have spread into other states. It’s true spotted lanternflies were introduced into southeast Pennsylvania in 2014. They slowly made their way throughout that state and into nearby states in the next 8-9 years, what makes us think they couldn’t have spread further? Jenn noted that while they’re throughout the Mid-Atlantic, they have actually spread throughout New England and as far west as Michigan and Indiana. Those are some well-traveled bugs!

What Eats Spotted Lanternflies

The spotted lanternfly has made itself at home and people have been crushing them, hitting them with salt guns, and even trying to spray bleach on them. We do recommend crushing them, but the other tactics? Not so much. But it’s okay because now that spotted lanternflies have become part of our ecosystem, they are now part of our ecosystem. That means natural predators. Mantids were most likely the first insect to decide the spotted lanternfly looked like a tasty meal, but they aren’t the only ones. Jenn said that “birds, spiders, yellow jackets, snakes, and even fish” have all gotten on the spotted lanternfly meal train. The fish in particular are interesting. Insectivorous fish primarily feed on aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, insect larvae, and pupae. They may actively hunt insects by jumping out of the water or grab those that drop into the water from overhanging vegetation. Sounds like spotted lanternflies aren’t great swimmers. These natural predators could be one of the reasons you’re not seeing as many spotted lanternflies around. Although the birds in Central Park better get cracking.

Why Are We Seeing Less Spotted Lanternflies

So, they are moving out and onto other states and populations have gone down because of natural predators. But that’s not all. Jennifer did mention now that we all know more about this particular species, effective pest control treatments, and agricultural treatments are working. She is personally seeing way fewer spotted lanternflies than she did in the last two years – and she’s in the industry! She said she’s seeing significantly less as time goes by as well. She says the spotted lanternfly treatments that target every stage of life are pivotal to the decreased population. Although she is an Entomologist, so, she gives a lot of credit to the spiders, yellow jackets, and mantids that have evolved into predators. Nature is amazing after all.

What To Do When You Find a Spotted Lanternfly

Of course, you can smoosh them. You may be wondering are spotted lanternflies dangerous or do spotted lanternflies bite. Happily, the answer to both is no! They are harmless to humans, but they do damage plants. And you’re encouraged to kill spotted lanternflies, scrape any eggs sacs off trees or anywhere else they’ve deposited them, and whatever else you can do to help control the population.

Whether you’re seeing more or less spotted lanternflies this season, the good news is there are ways to decrease the population. Ruining outdoor experiences and ruining many different kinds of plants are just a couple reason why spotted lanternflies are bad. So, thankfully pest control, natural predators, and them moving along will all help. You may also be getting used to them. Just don’t forget that they can do some serious damage. And you certainly won’t forget them should one fly right into your head (as they are known to do!)

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