Best quarantine activity: Destroy spotted lanternfly eggs before the spring hatch

Now’s the time to scrape these bugs out of existence.

To stop lanternflies before they're full-grown, scrape off their eggs

To stop lanternflies before they're full-grown, scrape off their eggs

AP Images / @vcmcguire
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With a citywide self-quarantine, we’re all eager for something new to keep ourselves occupied.

The good news? We already know we’re still allowed to go outside — so long as we keep our social distance. And while you’re there, you might as well pass the time by doing something positive for our environment:

Destroy spotted lanternflies.

It’s fair if you’ve forgotten all about the critters in the present pandemic insanity, but yes, spotted lanternflies still exist — and they’re still a threat to our local ecosystem.

The invasive species is super problematic for local flora. Basically, while the spotted lanternfly feeds on the sap of roughly 65 species of trees and plants, it also poops all over it — and the feces attracts a type of mold that will slowly weaken and kill the plant. Potentially at stake are Pennsylvania’s grape-growing, tree fruit, hardwood, nursery and landscape industries, which generate $18 billion every year.

The lanternfly population has been dormant for a while in the Keystone State. But their eggs are set to hatch starting in May, which means now is the best time to get rid of them.

Killing these pests might be the perfect opportunity to take out your social-isolation-induced frustration. Here’s where to find their eggs, and how to get rid of them.

How do I find them?

Spotted lanternflies will lay their eggs anywhere where there are trees. Think parks, backyards, woods.

The bugs plant their offspring on flat surfaces — and not just tree bark. To find all the eggs, you should search tree trunks, branches, rocks and any equipment or furniture that you keep outdoors.

Where are they?

The presence of these useless garbage pests will be higher in some Pennsylvania counties than others.

Last year, the state’s Department of Agriculture put 26 counties on “quarantine” — sorry, I know that’s triggering — meaning you should inspect your items for lanternflies or their eggs before you move them into another county.

We’re basically surrounded by high-risk areas — Philadelphia, Bucks, Montco and Delco are all quarantined counties.

What do they look like?

The spotted lanternfly can lay masses of 30 to 50 eggs at once. When they’re fresh they look… sort of like rice pudding? The eggs are laid amid a gray-ish goopy substance.

But by the time winter’s over — aka right now — they’ve dried into a white crackly substance — sort of like chipped paint. That’s what you should look out for.

Why am I doing this now?

This actually isn’t the first year the invasive insects are landing on American shores. Common for a long time in various parts of Asia, the lanternfly was first seen in Pennsylvania in September 2014.

But the pests are relevant now because they’re about to make their springtime resurgence. The fleet of invasive insects started laying eggs in September — and in May, they’ll start to hatch. If we smash the eggs before the become grown-up lanternflies, then we’ll save the plants in our state a huge headache.

So how do I kill them?

So glad you asked. Now for the fun part.

Killing the lanternfly larvae is far easier than much of your past bug-destroying experience. Since they’re prenatal, they won’t fight back — or walk, jump or fly away.

To rid our state of the pests, simply take a plastic card of your choice — your license, a debit or credit card, maybe even a firm business card, and scrape it overtop the egg mass. Really get in there with your scraper. You’ll need to see tiny eggs, plus maybe some juices, spill out, to know you’ve finished the job. Otherwise, some of those nymphs may still grow up to terrorize our wine and beer industry.

With each egg bust, you’ll know you’ve killed at least 30 to 50 future spotted lanternflies.

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