Home Events + News How to Safely Kill the Spotted Lanternfly

How to Safely Kill the Spotted Lanternfly

by Stephanie Spear
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Despite their colorful exteriors, the red and black adult spotted lanternfly residents seen throughout Hudson County are not welcome visitors. The spotted lanternfly is an invasive insect species that doesn’t hurt humans or animals but is extremely harmful to plants and trees. Given that New Jersey is known as The Garden State for a reason, it’s important to protect both the beauty offered by the state’s abundant flora as well as the agricultural businesses that help the state thrive — which means killing these invasive pests whenever you can. We’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help get rid of these bugs safely. Read on to learn more about how to safely kill lanternflies.

What’s Happening

The spotted lanternfly was first reported in 2014 in Pennsylvania. Since then, the bug has been seen throughout the East Coast, including New Jersey. At this stage in the insect’s lifecycle, most of the bugs are adults, which residents have reported seeing throughout Hudson County. They have red wings with black spots, and are about the size of a quarter. Residents who spot the pest are encouraged to both report and kill it.

lanterfly bugs new jersey hoboken

The spotted lanternfly is a serious invasive pest with a healthy appetite for our plants and it can be a significant nuisance, according to the New Jersey Division of Agriculture, affecting the quality of life and enjoyment of the outdoors.

The spotted lanternfly uses its piercing-sucking mouthpart to feed on sap from over 70 different plant species. It has a strong preference for economically important plants and the feeding damage significantly stresses the plants which can lead to decreased health and, potentially, death. And, let’s be honest, they’re pretty gross to look at.

Read More: Feeding Wildlife is Now Officially Banned in Hoboken

What You Can Do

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has a great deal of information for residents on how to handle the spotted lanternfly, including a month-by-month breakdown of what actions are recommended based on the bug’s life cycle. For August and September, residents are advised to destroy any life stage of the insect, up to and including the application of pesticides.

Lanternfly wanted poster

The fastest and most effective way to kill the spotted lanternfly is to quite literally stomp it out. In fact, the NJ Department of Agriculture’s main campaign is called “Stomp It Out.” As satisfying as it may be to squash a few bugs here and there, residents may encounter many bugs at one time. To control a larger number of pests, residents may need to turn to more efficient pest management methods.

Pesticides are very effective, and while they are commonly available, residents who live in densely populated areas might not want to apply chemicals to areas that are shared with other humans, pets, and children.  Several impacted townships in New Jersey have shared more natural ways to manage the pests without using chemicals. Several of the recommendations from the Townships of Bordentown, Montgomery, and Princeton are below.

Vinegar

Vinegar kills spotted lanternflies on contact. While vinegar can be diluted, it is most effective when sprayed directly onto the pest, regardless of its life stage. Vinegar may also harm the underlying plant, so be mindful of where you’re spraying.

Heads up: vinegar can also be harmful to bees. When spraying, avoid any flowers or greenery that bees may pollinate. We also recommend spraying in an area with more concrete and fewer plants in general. It’s also best to avoid spraying in large spaces to help minimize the impact on bees. Try to limit this hack to a small group of Lanternflies that are congregated away from greenery. 

Insecticidal Soap

A solution of insecticidal soap can be sprayed directly on any lifestage of the lanternfly.  Applying a mist of the solution where there is evidence of an infestation is an effective way of killing the pests in a wide surface area. Another use of insecticidal soap is to mix it with apple vide vinegar in a jar and place it outdoors near the infested area with the lid off.  The pests will be attracted to the solution, which is toxic to them.

Vacuum

It’s almost too easy to be effective, but it is. Use a Shop-Vac or any other type of vacuum to clear an area of the pests. Once they’re in the canister, douse them with soap and water or another natural pesticide to make sure they’re dead.

Soap and Water

A homemade lantern fly spray made of liquid soap and water is another simple way to kill lanternflies. Dawn or related brand dish soap works fine. Combine 1/4 cup liquid soap to a quart of water plus a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a spray bottle. The soapy water will suffocate and kill the bugs.

Neem Oil

Neem oil is a natural fungicide and pesticide derived from the seeds of the Neem tree. It becomes active when lanternfly bugs and other insects ingest the substance. This method takes some time to work, as the neem oil impacts the pests’ ability to feed. They will eventually starve to death. There are many commercially available products that contain Neem oil, or it can be made at home. A simple homemade spotted lanternfly spray recipe is 4 teaspoons of Neem oil combined with 2 teaspoons of liquid soap and a gallon of water, poured into a spray bottle. The solution should be sprayed directly onto the pests.

See More: Your Guide to Outdoor Dining in Montclair

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a naturally occurring substance made from fossilized remains and it looks like white sand. DE is effective as a pest control tool because it dehydrates bugs and insects upon contact with the substance. Since it only harms pests with an exoskeleton, it is not harmful to humans or animals. Be sure to use food grade DE, and either dust the impacted area with it, or make a spray by combining 4 tablespoons DE in a gallon of water.

DIY Traps

Soap Trap

Mix dish soap with apple cider vinegar in a jar and stir thoroughly. Open the jar and place it where bugs are spotted, including hanging the open jar in a tree. Many jars can be used to cover a larger area.

Circle Trap

This trap uses netting, a funnel, and a plastic bag to trap the bugs. Start by wrapping netting around the impacted tree and staple the netting to the tree. Attach a funnel to one end of the netting, and attach a plastic bag to the bottom of the netting. This YouTube video shows how to get the device set up. The bugs will crawl up the tree and be led into the funnel. Once the bugs are in the plastic bag, be sure to kill them using soap, water, essential oil, or another insecticide to make sure they’re dead.

Milkweed Bait

Milkweed is a wildflower that attracts spotted lanternflies. Its sap is poisonous to the lanternfly. Ones that don’t die immediately will be slow-moving, making them easier to catch and kill.

Download Squishr, The Lanternfly-Killing + Tracking App

For anyone who loves turning things into a game, this app is for you. Squishr helps make killing lanternflies fun by tracking how many you’ve killed — plus, it lets you record the date, time, and location of Lanternfly spottings so it can share the data with State Departments of Agriculture. This helps contribute to the improvement of Lanternfly research.

The Hoboken Girl will update readers as more localized information becomes available.

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