Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me

Viola Aderholt, Orli Trumbull (Freshmen)

Whether you know it or not, you have seen them. Well known to players and viewers at Cupples stadium, these bright red and disturbingly unaware insects have caused quite the stir across PA. 

Among the long list of invasive species that have been brought to the US, the Spotted Lanternflies (SLF) have garnered the most heat as of late. 

Easily recognized by their flashes of red and recognizable spots, this insect can be seen across the majority of the East Coast. So what makes these bugs so harmful?

The SLF originates in Asia, but was first encountered in the United States in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014. 

The SLF feeds entirely on sap from trees, vines, stems, and leaves. (Which conveniently seem to include many plants that hold importance to Pennsylvania). This causes significant stress and damage to the plants as they lose their source of saved nutrients. 

Along with the damage to agriculture, SLF’s produce a honeydew substance made from sap sugar. In places with high infestation levels, this substance can cover everything from play equipment to sidewalks.

Not only does the sticky dew disrupt human life, but it also further harms plants because of the black sooty mold which finds convenient homes on the waste. 

Any fungi that resides on plant leaves will hinder photosynthesis by acting as a light blocker.

Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods and parks have become a big target for the SLF, and Obama’s home stadium, Cupples, is no exception. “They are everywhere,” says Obama girls soccer player Diya Basu.

The Spotted Lanterfly

SLF have become a common sight on both the field and bleachers, being especially distracting during warmup. “We try to kill them when we see them,” says Greta Lee, another member of the Obama team. However, the sparse spikes on a cleat are impossible to accurately aim, and it typically takes multiple tries before you can kill a SLF.

So what can you do to reduce the SLF invasion of Pennsylvania? Here are a few steps you can take. 

  • First, step on them. While SLF are evasice, they are slow, and they can’t reproduce if they are squashed. 
  • To avoid dirtying your shoes, spraying the bug with dish soap will also clean up the pest. 
  • If you want to go an extra step, report your findings to the PDA or USDA. While they may not be able to get to your location to eliminate the bugs, it will improve scientist knowledge of how the bugs spread.

You can report your SLF sightings at services.agriculture.pa.gov/SLFReport/

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