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What is colorful like a butterfly, hops like a grasshopper, and resembles a moth when at rest?

If you happen to run across one — or it hops right in front of you — you’ll know it.

For a considerable length of time, it seemed like they were either ignoring or bypassing us. Reports of them around the area had become quite frequent, along with concern over the potential damage they could do to crops.

Alas, they’ve arrived here on the farm and, apparently, everywhere else in the county.

I spotted the first one face-to-face, as it perched on the back porch banister one recent, sunny afternoon.

It was immediately recognizable, though I’d never actually seen one in person before. And, when I stepped away to grab something to swat it with, it disappeared in a spring-loaded hop.

It’s official. Spotted lanternflies have taken up residence on the farm.

Having seen numerous pictures of these unwanted — albeit attractive — insect invaders, I recognized it immediately. And that’s why my instant, gut reaction was to smash the inch-long bugger. When it promptly vanished, I remembered a nearby friend talking about the very same action from the first one she’d spotted, just a week or two earlier.

As insects go, the spotted lanternfly doesn’t bite and seems reasonably harmless. But with a horrible reputation that has preceded its actual appearance here by probably two years or so, I knew doggone well that I needed to smack, squash, swat, stomp or whatever it took to finish it off.

Except, before I could smack, squash, swat or stomp, the little spring-loaded hopper was gone.

A day or so later, The Grandson arrived for supper with the news that, on his walk down from the machine shop, maybe a hundred yards or so away from the house, he’d wiped out no less than 17 spotted lanternflies.

We obviously don’t have a lone visitor. We have more of an invasion.

Within a day, I’d stomped three of them in the space of about two minutes, while playing “fetch” with Jax the Dog for a few minutes after supper. And, The Farmer shortly reported spotting one in his woodshop, which, in pure lanternfly character, promptly jumped away.

A bit of internet research clarifies the incredible spring-loaded characteristic of this pest, which can quickly destroy grape vineyards and rows of stone-fruit trees. It’s a variety of leafhopper, which made perfect sense, after seeing them disappear literally into thin air. In fact, I think the only reason I was able to stomp the trio I found during dog recreation was that they were slowed by crawling in the grass and didn’t see the underside of my sneakers until it was too late.

Farm woman, 3. Spotted lanternfly hoppers, 0.

Who am I kidding? These invaders, native to Southeast Asia, have already won this game by quickly spreading across a good portion of the Northeast and then sliding on south into the Virginias. And, one recent report notes a single spotted lanternfly captured in Kansas.

And, you can bet your boots that if there’s one of these bugs in Kansas, it’s got relatives nearby.

We’re all familiar with many of the invasives of recent times: the brown marmorated stink bugs, emerald ash borers, woolly adelgids, and recent reports of swarms of fall army worms which can wipe out hay crops faster than fire through dry grass. (OK, maybe army worms aren’t foreign invasives, but they apparently winter in the south and re-invade our more northern grassfields by fall.)

So, squash ‘em, swat ‘em, stomp ‘em, spray ‘em, whatever it takes to wipe out these destructive pests.

And, if you see spotted lanternfly egg masses on trees, destroy them. Ironically, one of their native hosts is the similarly invasive “tree of heaven,” which continues to take over the understory of wooded lots, crowding out the more environmentally friendly native species.

Maybe the lanternflies will wipe out the millions of tree-of-heaven saplings that have taken root across the region, then die off because they’ve killed their favorite host.

We can only wish.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.


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