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Homeowner stunned after discovering neighbor 'breeding' invasive species in backyard: 'It is apparently a ticketable offense'

"At first, I thought maybe he was collecting them to take somewhere for some sort of study."

Spotted lanternflies

Photo Credit: iStock

After spotted lanternflies were first reported in southeastern Pennsylvania in 2014, there has been a concerted effort to get rid of the invasive species

According to The Guardian, while the insect is harmless to humans directly, they can damage trees and fruit crops. 

With many areas in the United States waging an "if you see it, stomp it" campaign against the winged menaces, one Pittsburgh resident could not believe a neighbor was seemingly breeding them in his backyard.

Posting in the r/Pittsburgh subreddit, the concerned community member broke down the story, saying they spotted the neighbor scraping lanternflies from his tree and putting them in mesh enclosures. 

"At first I thought maybe he was collecting them to take somewhere for some sort of study, but the enclosures never seem to be moved [from] that spot," they said. "Then more mesh enclosures were added. I can see that the meshes are getting pretty full. Sometimes he does let some of the lantern flies out."

Upon asking for advice about what to do next, one Redditor reached out to a friend who works in spotted lanternfly management. Upon hearing back from their associate, the Redditor commented: "It is apparently a ticketable offense." 

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's website says, for example, in bold font: "Intentional movement of [the spotted lanternfly] is expressly prohibited and is a serious offense. Violations could result in criminal or civil penalties and/or fines."

Lanternfly sightings in Pennsylvania reached 150,000 in 2019, as The Guardian noted, but the numbers dropped to 61,000 in 2021, which is the last year of available data. 

National Geographic noted lanternflies feed on 70 different kinds of plants and trees, and according to a study published in the Science of the Total Environment journal, the estimated economic cost of biological invasions was $21 billion between 2010 and 2020. 

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture told The Guardian that female lanternflies can lay between 30 to 60 eggs. 

"And every time you stomp one out, that's one more that isn't reproducing," Cecilia Sequeira said. "Every little bit helps; it is a very prolific pest, and we're probably their biggest natural enemies. It's pretty important that people do their part."

Keeping them or breeding them, then, is certainly not advised. Hopefully this Pittsburgh resident saw the light and got rid of their lanternfly collection. 

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