Cute, but Harmful: Insect Experts Suggest Killing Lanternflies Upon Contact

Field technician Lott Miller holds a Spotted Lanternfly Friday at Penn State Berks' Pfeiffer Farm. Photo by Lauren A. Little 9/28/2018
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Don’t worry: No one killing these bugs will get in trouble. In fact, they are being called "civic heroes.”

Lanternflies are cuter than most insects. They have plump little bodies, they’re bright-colored, and they have polka dots and other interesting markings on their wings.

Even so, experts say if you see one, kill it.

Lanternflies, from China, wreak havoc on agriculture, according to CBC News. They destroy and threaten things like fruit orchards, poplar trees, grapes, almonds, oak, walnuts, and more.

The pest has an interesting way of doing this too. They feed on sap, and that makes them excrete “honeydew,” according to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

That “honeydew” attracts large amounts of sooty molds. And those molds impact plants' abilities to photosynthesize, grow and yield fruits.

“The sticky mess and the swarms of insects it attracts can significantly hinder outdoor activities," they noted.

"People can't be outside without getting honeydew on their hair, clothes, and other belongings."

They’ve been in the U.S. since 2014 and were initially spotted in Pennsylvania. They are still prevalent in the state, but they’ve since spread in at least nine Northeast states, including New York City.

Don’t worry: No one killing these bugs will get in trouble. In fact, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation recently shared a tweet of someone saying they killed one of the incests, and they referred to them as a “civic hero.”

“Have no fear,” they wrote. “Spotted lanternflies are a threat to our city's forests. If you see a spotted lanternfly, squish it, dispose of it, and report it to us at.”

The best time to kill lanternflies is in August when most adults are out, CBS said. In September, they begin laying eggs, and the babies, while easier to kill, are harder to find.

Anyone who goes hunting for lanternflies, rest assured: They are not physically harmful to humans.

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