We’ve been invaded by legions and legions of spotted lanternflies who are absolutely, indefatigably relentless in growing their population. They manifest like some manic multiplication table with Mach 5 speed.
Thus, our mission is to kill them. And kill them. And then kill more of them. For the sake of our trees. And for the sake of our tree huggers, who when they hug a tree today get up close and personal with lanternflies as well.
I’m not sure this is what God had in mind when he created man. But we all must become killing machines.
Indeed, if Winston Churchill were alive and well and living in Berks County today, he undoubtedly would say this about combating the plague of the lanternflies:
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our land whatever the cost may be. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills and in the valleys. We shall never surrender.”
Even my 90-year-old mother, God bless her, has joined the fight. The lanternflies are all over her beloved front porch and, her balance issues be damned, she – with blood in her eye — is flailing away at them, smashing them with her cane.
Why must we fight? Because the invasive spotted lanternfly insect is sucking the life out of trees in Berks and other southeastern Pennsylvania counties. The opportunistic insect uses a proboscis, or needle straw, like a mosquito, to suck the juices out of trees.
So far there are no solutions in southeastern PA, the epicenter of the attack of the invasive insect, which was first spotted in Berks County in 2014. There are no natural predators, no birds, parasites or wasps to attack the spotted lanternfly.
Which is why it’s up to us. We either kill them or export them back to Asia, from whence they came.
Autumn is a crucial time in this Battle Royale. In the fall, the lanternfly lays its eggs. Each female may lay a mass of up to 100 eggs at a time.
Trees may be treated with systemic insecticide, which the invasive bugs feed on and then die. Homeowners should look for egg masses on vertical surfaces, like trees and sheds, and scrape them off, crush and kill them.
The sap-eating lanternfly doesn’t bite or sting humans, pets or livestock. It prefers to feast on grapevines, fruit trees and hardwoods. Hopefully its culinary tastes do not evolve.
Here in these parts the mothlike pest was first spotted in District Township in 2014. It has spent subsequent summers infesting orchards, vineyards, woodlands and backyards in rural parts of Berks County.
Alas, this dreaded flying and jumping monster has spread to the suburbs and the city of Reading, where it alights city office buildings, the DoubleTree by Hilton and, in the ultimate irony considering its roots, the Japanese Pagoda.
Granted, we must keep our plight in perspective. Life here on earth was not meant to be paradise.
As Woody Allen once said, “Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”
And he said that before he had ever heard of spotted lanternflies.