Were you bugged by spotted lanternflies this summer and fall?

A simple flick of the wrist could reduce New Jersey's lanternfly population next year by dozens.

The invasive species can't survive New Jersey's frigid winter temperatures, but their eggs can. So the Department of Agriculture is asking you to be on the lookout for lanternfly egg masses this time of year ... so you can destroy them.

“The more of these egg masses that can be destroyed now and before spring, the less of these nuisance pests there will be next year,” said Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher.

How to spot and destroy lanternfly eggs

Spotted lanternfly on side of building, late summer, Berks County, Pennsylvania

For a couple of years now, New Jersey officials have been urging residents to "stomp out" spotted lanternflies in their nymphal and adult stages. With egg laying continuing through December, the focus now is interrupting that cycle so it can't start again in May.

While the lanternfly's preferred spot is the Tree of Heaven, which is common in the state, egg masses can be found on most surfaces outdoors, including vehicles, park benches, steps, or on the sides of buildings.

Egg masses contain 30 to 50 eggs. New masses have a light gray mud-like appearance (photos at the top of the article). Older masses are more tan and resemble cracked mud.

A typical egg mass is about 1 inch in size.

To the untrained eye, lichen, a fungus found on trees and other surfaces, can be confused for lanternfly egg masses.

"They're hard to recognize at first. Once you've crushed a few, though, then you get the hang of it," said Saul Vaiciunas, a plant pathologist with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

Cemetery Preservation
Lichen on a gravestone (AP)

The suggested method of destroying eggs is scraping them off of their surface. It is important to press against the egg mass and hear the eggs popping as they are being scraped, officials say. That popping sound indicates that the eggs are being destroyed.

While this scraping can be done with any credit card, Rutgers Extension offices in each county have special "scraping cards" available for the public.

Scraping cards are available at the Rutgers Extension office in each county. (NJ Dept. of Agriculture)
Scraping cards are available at the Rutgers Extension office in each county. (NJ Dept. of Agriculture)

According to the Department of Agriculture, state and national staff have scraped nearly 340,000 egg masses since October 2021, and treated almost 20,000 acres.

The spotted lanternfly is not a threat to humans or animals, but it is known to feed on numerous types of vegetation, the Department said.

The spotted lanternfly, which is considered to be a master hitchhiker, now has confirmed populations in 14 states. Native to Asia, the insect first arrived in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 2014.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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