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‘Stomp them out!’

How to prepare now for the return of spotted lanternflies

A spotted lanternfly with its wings open, sucking the life out of a tree.

Spotted lanternflies, an invasive insect from China which made it’s way to New Jersey and Hudson County in 2021, are about to rear their spotted heads again.

Ava Mroz, an Environmental Assistant at the Secaucus Environmental Department, told the Hudson Reporter how to best prepare for the onslaught of nature-killing bugs that first become an issue last year. According to Mroz, currently the spotted lanternflies are still in their egg forms, with the possibility that some have hatched. 

“The spotted lanternflies should be in their egg masses right now,” Mroz said. “I haven’t seen any nymphs hatching outside. But it’s possible that they’re too small to see, but exist.” 

Around this time in April or May, depending on the weather, the spotted lanternflies eggs hatch, Mroz explained. Adult spotted lanternflies lay eggs before dying off between October to late December.

“They should usually be hatching around this time, but it’s very dependent on the weather,” she said. “So unfortunately, we never know. But if they were to hatch, and they do exist right now, they would be in the nymph stages.” 

Identifying spotted lanternflies in different stages

Mroz stressed the importance of being able to identify the lanternflies at all stages of its life span in order to get rid of them: egg, nymph, and adult. The more people recognize the insect in all of its stages, the more the invasive species can be stopped. 

“A lot of people don’t know what lanternflies look like when they’re nymphs,” she said. “They look very different and that’s the problem.”

Spotted lanternflies swarm on a tree. Photos courtesy of Secaucus Environmental Assistant Ava Mroz.

Nymph spotted lanternflies can still harm trees by sucking the nutrients out of them just the same as adult spotted lanternflies, making them equally as dangerous although less recognizable. Thus, it’s best to get rid of the spotted lanternflies when they are eggs, with the best time to so preferably in the first few weeks after the leaves started coming back on the trees and provide protection for the egg nests. 

“Nymph spotted lanternflies are still an issue, so it’s better to get them sooner than later,” she said. “But of course we always advocate to get the eggs while you can. It’s better because it’s their nonliving stage. At that point, you’re not causing them harm. It’s also better because it’s easier to just crush an egg nest rather than chasing around thirty spotted lanternflies.” 

Pushing back the plant killers

The invasive species not only attacks trees, but plants, flowers and basically any other wildlife. 

“They target anything with economic value basically,” she said. “In Pennsylvania last year, there was around $376 million in crop damages. They like anything that produces fruits; they like grapes, they like apple trees. In Hudson County, they like maple trees, honey locust trees, and black walnut trees.” 

Spotted lanternflies are black with white spots at one point in their life span.

Mroz advocates the easiest way to kill the spotted lanternflies is to stomp on them. For more efficiency, she suggests targeting the eggs before they hatch, but the window to do that is almost over.

“Stomp them out, or just crush the eggs,” she said. “It’s better to get rid of the eggs, but that has to be done right now.” 

According to Mroz, using insecticides are not the way to go. That can end up harming the local ecosystem, which is akin to the same thing the spotted lanternflies are doing.

“We recommend against broad spectrum insecticides and pesticides because the runoff can go into our waterways and affect that,” she said. “It also will affect other pollinators this time of year, especially birds and butterflies and anything that’s beneficial to our ecosystem as well.”

Insecticides are not necessarily effective on the spotted lanternflies, Mroz said. So instead, just stomp them out.

“It also won’t guarantee that it will kill the spotted lanternflies, especially if they’re in egg mass form,” she said. “Their egg masses are capped, so it’s not going to eliminate them as people would expect.”

Curbing the spread locally

Mroz said Hudson County is not one of the 13 Quarantine Counties designated by the state as coping with a spotted lanternfly infestation, but she has reported thousands of sightings in Secaucus as well as North Bergen, Jersey City, Hoboken, and Bayonne, among other municipalities. Locally, she and her colleagues personally check trees in Secaucus, as part of her work with the Secaucus Environmental Department. 

Spotted lanternflies turn red with white spots later in their lives before maturing into adults.

“We have been really diligent about going around inspecting street trees,” she said. “We’ve been taking thousands of egg masses off of street trees in Secaucus. But unfortunately, a lot of other municipalities don’t have the team that we have, so they’re not able to take care of the problem as we can.”  

Mroz touted the Secaucus Environment Department, an asset not employed in many municipalities, for doing their part to prevent the spread of spotted lanternflies. She highlighted the importance of knowing what insect looks like at all stages of its life, noting that the nymphs of spotted lanternflies have two colored forms before maturing completely: black with white spots and red with white spots.

Make sure to be familiar with what they look like as eggs or nymphs.” she said. “They’re little black bugs with white spots, then they’re red bugs with the white spots, and they develop into the adults we’re all familiar with. It’s important everybody knows what they look like. They might see them when they’re tiny and think they look cool or pretty but they are dangerous.”

After sighting a spotted lanternfly in any stage of its life, stomp on it. Mroz concluded: “If you see one, kill it.”

These four photos illustrate the different appearances of the invasive insect throughout its life span.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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