They’re the talk of the town, and not in a good way.
As the summer of 2019 has heated up, so has the population of spotted lanternflies multiplied in the borough of Hellertown, borough manager Cathy Hartranft confirmed at Monday night’s borough council meeting.
The invasive insect species first arrived in Berks County in 2014, and since then it has spread its wings in order to colonize other areas such as the Lehigh Valley, which is part of a state-established quarantine zone in which it poses a significant threat to agriculture.
The insects are also affecting the quality of life of residents in Hellertown and elsewhere, particularly outside in yards, parks and other spaces such as the Saucon Rail Trail, where they can sometimes be seen massing on tree trunks.
Hartranft said officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Penn State Extension who were recently in Hellertown to survey for the bothersome bugs confirmed that two of the largest pieces of public open space in the borough–the Thomas Iron Works property and Water Street Park–are now “infested” with spotted lanternflies.
Saucon Source visited both sites Tuesday, and hundreds if not thousands of them were easy to spot on trees on the north side of Water Street Park, near where the Thomas Iron Works (or “Cinder Banks”) property begins. Not coincidentally, that area is heavily overgrown with the invasive tree of heaven, which state officials say is fueling the explosion in the equally invasive spotted lanternfly population.
Hartranft said the results of pesticides on the insects so far have been mixed. In some cases, the sprays have caused damage to trees, she told council.
That is why the state is recommending that residents simply squash them whenever they can.
A colorful yard sign produced by the Penn State Extension which can be seen outside Hellertown Borough Hall instructs passers-by to “Stop. Scrape. Squash” the bugs. It also bears a reminder to “look for spotted lanternflies before leaving,” since vehicles are a major means by which they are able to invade new places.
Although there is much discussion about how to deal with them on social media, the Extension advises against using home remedies to combat the spotted lanternfly.
“The best thing any property owner can do is become informed about spotted lanternflies,” is the Extension’s answer to the commonly asked question “Can I prevent spotted lanternflies from getting on my property?” on the website. “By becoming informed, property owners can choose to remove and/or treat the Ailanthus (tree of heaven) trees on their properties, which attract the insects. In addition, property owners can reference our Spotted Lanternfly Management for Homeowners guide for using contact pesticides and treatments on a variety of trees and plants.”
Within that guide is a list of insecticides and other products that have been found to work on the spotted lanternfly, as well as information about how to apply them.
The state is also currently researching the use of a naturally-occurring fungus in an effort to help stop the spread of the lanternflies, and spraying in places as part of an effort to reduce the spread of tree of heaven.
Tell Us: Are you seeing spotted lanternflies in your yard or somewhere else? What are you doing to remove them, if anything? Tell us what your experience with the spotted lanternfly has been like.