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Resident shocked to see invasive insects swarming local park: 'They seem to be everywhere'

These insects are small, but they can have devastating effects on other wildlife.

These insects are small, but they can have devastating effects on other wildlife.

Photo Credit: iStock

As the weather warms again now that May has arrived, the U.S. is expected to reckon with its spotted lanternfly problem again at numbers bigger than last year. If you forgot how bad it got in 2023, look no further than some images a Reddit user in New York City shared in August.

In a post on the r/WhatIsThisBug subreddit, a user posted three pictures of hundreds of identical-looking pinkish-brownish winged bugs covering a large tree in Kissena Park in Queens.

"What a happy story!"
Photo Credit: iStock

Commenters identified the insects in question as spotted lanternflies, which are indigenous to eastern Asia and have been identified in numerous East Coast states since 2014, with one commenter saying, "They seem to be everywhere."

Spotted lanternflies begin their life cycles as early instar nymphs, which are black with white dots. As they develop, they become red and black with white dots before eventually growing into inchlong moth-like adults, according to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Spotted lanternflies are small, but they can have devastating effects on other wildlife. The insects are known to eat the sap of and damage trees like red and silver maples, weeping willows, black cherries, sycamores, black walnut trees, and more. When they eat from these plants, they stunt their growth and excrete a substance that attracts other insects and can develop into sooty mold that inhibits photosynthesis.

Spotted lanternflies are invasive species — and stomping on them might actually help curb the problems that they cause. Additionally, Chinese researchers recently discovered that lanternflies are attracted to electrical vibrations, which could be a key weakness that could help curb infestations, according to the USDA.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommends civilians learn to identify lanternflies to avoid inadvertently bringing them into new spaces and that passersby destroy egg masses by putting them in soapy water or hand sanitizer. 

Nature-oriented social media accounts have begun sharing images of what the eggs look like so others can be aware and help. As Brooklyn-based Shirley Chisholm State Park's Instagram account said: "The most efficient way to kill them is to scrape the rows of eggs off with something hard and flat, like a credit card, into rubbing alcohol. It is also possible to smash them after being scraped, but it is very important to pop every egg sac, as they can still hatch after being removed from where the egg was initially laid. The first method is best as compared to the second one, because it ensures that all eggs are inviable."

Users offered tips for dealing with fully grown lanternflies in the Reddit comments. 

"OP, get some soapy water (dawn) and go to town on them. Won't hurt the tree. It will kill the bugs," one user recommended.

"Time to bring a hammer to the park and start smashing. Or maybe a tennis racket," another user wrote.

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