Not too many bugs are more destructive than the Lycorma delicatula, better known as the spotted lanternfly. An invasive pest native to Asia, it first arrived in the United States seven years ago. It’s a threat to trees, plants, crops, orchards, vineyards, even jobs. And as if that’s not bad enough, it excretes a gross residue known as “honeydew” that can turn into mold, drip sticky soot onto cars and patios, and become dangerously slippery to step on-and it just flat out stinks when its scent hits your nostrils.
Charming, right? If that sounds like the sort of bug that you just want to squash, many nature lovers would say…go right ahead. Environmental experts are so worried about the damage the spotted lanternfly could wreak on local ecosystems, the public, in some places, is being advised to kill the bugs as soon as they see them. As the New York Times wrote in a headline, “Die, Beautiful Spotted Lanternfly, Die.”. And in Pennsylvania, residents are being told, “Kill it! Squash it, mash it, just get rid of it.”
So when live adult spotted lanternflies were spotted in Fitchburg, Mass., in July-a dozen states now have reported infestations-Jennifer Forman Orth, an environmental biologist at the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, who got her master’s degree at Boston University in energy and environmental studies, was suddenly besieged with questions about this invasive bug.
The Brink caught up with Forman Orth to talk about this particular bug, her personal interest in all bugs, and what we should do if we think we’ve seen a dreaded spotted lanternfly.