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

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After a winter stuck indoors, we’re all eager to get outside. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to do something positive for the environment:

Destroy spotted lanternflies.

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

The lanternfly population goes dormant over the winter, but their offspring 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 pandemic-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, we 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?

Common for a long time in various parts of Asia, the lanternfly was first seen in Pennsylvania in September 2014.

The pests are relevant now because they’re about to make their springtime resurgence. The fleet 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?

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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Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...