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I Have Had It Up to Here With the Spotted Lanternflies
I'm sick of this!
Everyone has those moments where life’s daily injustices cause them to want to scream, in the immortal words of George Costanza, “We’re living in a society!!!” For me, one such moment came a couple of days ago, when, as I was walking along Eighth Avenue in Manhattan and minding my own business, a spotted lanternfly, New York City’s most notorious and hated new bug, suddenly alit on my pants leg. When I swatted at the beastly thing, it didn’t fly away from me. Instead, it merely moved down to my shoe. Only after repeated shaking, which I’m sure made me look like something of a maniac, did the lanternfly finally take the hint and go search for another resting place.
Now, to me, it is very rude for a giant bug to land on my leg and then my shoe rather than choosing a more neutral spot, such as a trash can or windowsill. New York City is very densely packed, and most of us usually manage to avoid clinging to strangers’ limbs and extremities. But spotted lanternflies apparently don’t want to abide by this widely recognized social compact.
This is how civilizations break down—through the ever-increasing inability of their inhabitants to display common decency. And it’s just one of the reasons why the lanternflies have GOT to go.
Unfortunately, the lanternflies are not leaving. They have become, as far as I can tell, an even greater menace this year.
For those of you lucky enough not to live in one of the 14 states where the lanternflies are currently making their presence felt, a brief primer: the spotted lanternfly is a very big invasive bug (not actually a fly!) from Asia that started showing up in the U.S. around 2014. It’s quite pretty to look at, as you can see in this picture.
But the lanternfly should not be here! And it also should not be doing all the bad stuff it does, as the National Park Service explains:
Once established in an area, SLF has the potential to dramatically affect forest ecosystems, agricultural production, and cultural resources. Although SLF has a preference for feeding on the exotic tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), it is an indiscriminate pest and will feed on over 70 different plant species. It impacts its host directly by extracting plant sap from young leaves and stems using piercing and sucking mouthparts, and causes indirect harm by excreting a sugary liquid (honeydew) that attracts other insects and promotes the proliferation of black sooty mold, which can negatively affect plant growth and initiate secondary fungal infections.
It’s like a combination plant Dracula and toxic waste dump! Oh, and if you were wondering if climate change is partially to blame—yes. It’s all despicable. Which is why we have all been ordered to kill them on sight.
Here in New York City, residents have responded to this directive with enthusiasm. Just look at this trail of lanternfly destruction I encountered earlier this week.
But here’s the problem: the lanternflies don’t seem to be getting the message. They are everywhere these days—in the parks, on the streets, presumably menacing our youth and scaring our more excitable pets. And they’re hanging around in clusters more than they were. I did some reporting (asked in Slack) and found I was not alone:
What’s more, I’ve begun to sense that the lanternflies are wilier this year than last. In 2022, there weren’t so many of them and they seemed pretty slow-moving and dimwitted. Now, they’ve descended en masse and have suddenly gotten much better at evading the common human shoe. You might say, “but what about the picture above with all the dead lanternflies?” Well, just outside the frame of that picture were a ton of alive lanternflies, and they were not going anywhere. It’s like they’re taunting us with their newfound skills.
This is not acceptable! New Yorkers have enough to deal with—have you seen our mayor??? And I assume the other 13 states have their own problems too. Now we have to cope with giant bugs invading our airspace, bleeding our plants dry, and laughing in our faces when we try to smush them? No! No! No! We’re living in a society!!!!!!!!!!
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