Insects we don’t want

Of course, all species are part of nature and part of the food chain. But birds, bats and others who consume mosquitoes must have more than their fill by now, and spotted lanternflies have no predators here. What can we do to cut down on the excess?

This red-bottomed bird bath in West Chester has mosquito eggs (the grain-like spots among the debris) floating on the surface. In another day, the eggs will hatch into larvae which will grow to about 3/8 inch long; they come to the surface to breathe, but forage for food farther down and will wriggle about if you tap the bird bath. A few more days and they become pupae, which look like small stalks hanging from the surface. Another day or two and the adult mosquitoes will emerge, spread its wings and fly away.

What do we do about it? Tip the water out of the bird bath (and all other sources of stagnant water) every few days!

Spotted lanternflies are a recent invasive species; their point of diffusion in the US seems to have been our part of Pennsylvania in about 2012. They have an attractive and even exotic look with some of their developmental phases (instars) being black with white spots and others featuring red. They suck sap from the stems of trees, some agricultural crops, shrubs like roses, and even lace vines. They favor newer, more tender growth… right where they (and their sticky excretions that host a blackish mold and the leaking sap that attracts other insects) do the most harm.

What do we do about it? The most environmental solution is to apply a band of sticky tape around any tree they are trying to crawl up. Only the adult phase has wings, and even those hop more than they fly; but they are very agile and hard to catch or squash. However, they definitely do not like being sprayed with a solution of dish soap and water; if you have an old spray bottle, that sends them hopping away and, after several applications, seems to deter them from returning to the same site.

The photo, from East Bradford, shows an early morning’s catch; by evening, the tape was entirely covered. You can almost feel sorry for them as you hear the crackling noise, like Rice Krispies in milk, of hundreds of feet lifting off the sticky tape, to no avail since all of the other 5 feet remain stuck. But do they feel sorry for the damage they do?

(If you use tape, be sure to cover it with chicken wire, as shown, to prevent birds from getting stuck as well.)

You might even think they are sort of cute… until you notice their tarry excretions killing everything underneath where they are sucking the sap of, in this case, a birch tree. Free Roundup, anyone?

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