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Red Spotted Lanternflies: Should We Stop the Stomp?

Ashby Morin, Grade 9, Staff Writer


What are they? Where do they come from? Why are they here? The Red Spotted Lanternfly, originally from Asia, is an invasive species that seems to have taken over New York City.

First discovered in the US in 2014, these flies are only one inch long, and can only fly when they reach their adult stage. Even though they have this ability, they usually choose to glide, and hop around–jumping up to three meters!

Their wings are gray with black spots, but when they fly, their red and black hindwings become visible. They mostly feed on fruit and trees.

These flies are causing major problems. Though they do not harm humans, they cause serious damage to various plants, in particular trees and other vegetation that hold sap. The flies do not usually actually kill the plants – they weaken them by sucking the sap out of them, leading to such plant injuries such as wilting and leaking sap.

After the lanternflies harm the plants, they leave behind honeydew, which attracts more insects, some of which do more damage to the plants, possibly even killing them. The lanternflies’ waste also promotes fungal disease.

Because of all the environmental destruction the red-spotted lanternflies cause, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking people to crush the bugs on sight with their shoes before they multiply and spread out even further. The flies have no natural predators, so the only way they can be stopped is if humans take action.

There are many ways to eliminate these pests. It is recommended to stomp on them, but some people don’t like the idea of bug guts on their shoes. A possible, less gory alternative is to collect the fly and stick it in the freezer to kill it.. Some people are actually quite upset that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging and endorsing the squishing of these sap slurpers. They are sympathetic to the flies and find the red color and spots too beautiful, or even too cute, to kill. Those who follow Buddhist principles might argue that bugs are sentient beings, not deserving of harm or death.

While crushing these pests might feel productive, all the stomping barely does anything to slow down the invasion. In order to actually diminish what feels like endless waves of these flies, city, state, and federal officials need to lead a more strategic and sustainable effort.

Red Spotted Lanternfly on a leaf

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