The invasive and destructive spotted lanternfly faded from view in New Jersey when the weather turned cold. But before dying off, the insects laid hundreds of millions of eggs that will eventually hatch and trigger a new campaign to kill off as many of them as possible.

The lanternfly population is growing

According to Rutgers University lanternfly expert Anne Nielsen, the population of these bugs in the Garden State this summer is expected to be even larger this year than it was in 2021.

Invasion of the Lanternflies
AP Photo
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Three years ago when the lanternfly invasion first began, “we were seeing large problems up in Hunterdon County, and now that’s kind of shifting southward toward Central New Jersey, they are expanding in most places," she said.

“The bugs are here and if they’re not killed they’re reproducing, so they’re just continuing to spread throughout the state and increase in their numbers.”

She said as the insect population increases, some areas that were inundated with lanternflies last summer may actually see a bit of drop-off because “the bugs kind of move out, but in other locations we will see higher levels just spreading throughout New Jersey.”

She said right now there are millions of lanternfly eggs on flat upright surfaces, including tree branches with smooth bark. Unless they are destroyed they will begin to hatch sometime in May.

“If you see egg masses you can scrape them but most of the bugs and the egg masses are in the tops of the trees,” she said.

Why are lanternflies so bad?

Nielsen said the bugs are considered a menace because they damage landscape plants, trees and vineyards.

Nymphal instars of spotted lanternfly (New Jersey Department of Agriculture)
Nymphal instars of spotted lanternfly (New Jersey Department of Agriculture)
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For that reason, “any efforts that we can make to prevent the spread of these bugs, to reduce their populations will help our farmers, and that’s really important in the Garden State."

Lanternflies, which are believed to have come from China, tend to congregate on trees, light poles and fence posts, but you will also see them on sidewalks because of radiating warmth.

What’s the best way to kill lanternflies?

She noted some spiders and praying mantis will eat lanternflies, but most birds don’t enjoy the taste, so the bugs have relatively few natural predators in this state.

Nielsen said it’s great to be respectful of all life “however this is an invasive species ... and it’s causing more environmental harm than good, it’s OK to kill them.”

These all work:

A flyswatter.

A shop-vac.

The bottom of your foot if you're quick enough.

Spotted Lanternfly (NJ Dept. of Agriculture)
Spotted Lanternfly (NJ Dept. of Agriculture)
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She said if you see thousands of lanternflies on trees on your property you can use insecticides to wipe them out but be cognizant of environmental impacts.

 

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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