SOUTHPORT, N.Y. (WETM) – You’ve probably heard it a hundred times: “If you see it, kill it.”
New York State officials have said that the arrival of the spotted lanternfly in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes isn’t a matter of if, but when. The invasive species could devastate the wine industry and produce farms, so anyone who sees them should show no mercy.
But how recognizable are they?
The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets explained that while you may see stunning photos of the bugs with their red, white, and black wings wide open, you probably won’t see them in that state in the wild.
“The problem of it is they don’t actually fly like a moth or a butterfly,” said Charlie Todd of Chamberlain Acres Garden Center. “They move like a grasshopper. So when they’re in flight, they’re just doing real quick. And they actually spend most of their time on their feet.”
And while you may see images of large egg masses on the side of a tree, Todd said you’re just as likely to find a small smear in the bark instead. The young bugs, called nymphs, are very small and start out black with white spots before the black turns red.
They’re attracted to many plants (except conifers), but one of the most important is the tree of heaven. The tree spreads like a sumac. It starts out small and can easily be plucked out of the ground, but it quickly establishes a strong and widespread root system.
Plus, the tree of heaven likes soil that’s disturbed, so it grows well along railroads. The trains, in turn, may play a part in bringing the spotted lanternflies into Upstate New York.
The NYS Ag Department has also created traps that circle the trunks of trees and capture the bugs in a bag as they climb.
“If you see one, just leave it alone because they’re there for a reason,” Todd said. “They’re just trying to track and find out what they gotta do and when they’re getting in certain areas.”