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Spotted Lanternflies Are Threatening Agriculture And Trees In Northeast States


The Northeastern United States is being invaded. Nearly a dozen states are reporting infestations of the spotted lanternfly.

ALEJANDRO CALIXTO: It's a really pretty insect - red with white dots and black marks. Unfortunately, it's an invasive insect.

INSKEEP: Alejandro Calixto is of the pest management program at Cornell University.

CALIXTO: This insect is native from Asia. They're not a problem in their native areas. It's when you introduce these species into new areas. They usually don't have their natural enemies. They can reproduce really fast and in large numbers.


Invasive insects cause billions of dollars of damage to agriculture every year in the U.S., and the lanternfly could add to that price tag. Calixto says it's threatening vineyards.

CALIXTO: It doesn't bite. It doesn't sting. This is an insect that feeds on the sap of the plants.

MARTIN: And Calixto says that debilitates the plants. He's been tracking lanternfly migration patterns and developing a mitigation strategy. In Pennsylvania, people are taking a more direct approach.

KASSIE FENN: The first time I saw one was the first time I killed one. It was on the ground, and I was able to stomp it with my foot. And I felt like I was doing my part.

INSKEEP: Kassie Fenn of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation started a program called the Squish Squad.

FENN: Coming from a background in environmental education, I don't think I've ever promoted the killing of any organism. So there's really a purpose behind it. It's not just, oh, we don't like this insect, so we need to squish it. There's a real concern about the negative impact it can have.

INSKEEP: She says if you're squeamish about squishing bugs, it is OK to use a fly swatter.

MARTIN: Got one. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.