City Cast

Urban Almanac: Smash This Bug

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on May 18   |   Updated on June 5
An adult spotted lantern fly. (arlutz73/Getty Images)

An adult spotted lantern fly. (arlutz73/Getty Images)

The spotted lantern fly is an invasive species first seen in the region in 2014 and seems to be here to stay. The insect is, in fact, not a fly at all It is a plant hopper that takes flying leaps to feed on plant and tree sap.

The problem is, it excretes a sugary liquid called honeydew that leaves a sticky residue and subsequent fungus called sooty mold, which ultimately kills its host plants. This has especially been an issue for breweries and wineries who are seeing them en masse.

Scientists in Fairfax launched a four-year, $200,000 effort to try and keep the lantern fly in check. They are targeting the insect's favorite host, the tree of heaven, with chainsaws and herbicide to get to the eggs in the bark before they hatch.

The good news is praying mantises are also helping. They’re beginning to attack lantern flies in some of the areas where they were first introduced. But, we can’t leave it all to the long-legged assassin.

If you are seeing a lot of them around your property, use horticultural spray oil, insecticidal soap, or neem oil to keep them at bay. And if you are moving, make sure to check this list of items to avoid any unwanted hitchhikers!

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