For months now, New Yorkers have been on notice to swat, smash and stomp the Spotted Lanternfly – an insect easily detected by its beige and red wings speckled with black dots – when it lands in one’s vicinity. But residents aren’t on their own in the fight to curb the population of the lanternfly, which presents a threat to crops and plants, and subsequently efforts to combat climate change; the Battery Park City Authority is also doing its part to eradicate these bugs that have infested the city and other parts of the North Eastern region of the United States.
Native to Asia, the lanternfly was first discovered in New York City last summer, and its population has grown in number over the year. This summer the fly has started to cause havoc on a range of agricultural crops, including, hops, blueberries, peaches, plums, as well as grapes (therefore causing a particular concern to winemakers). In Pennsylvania, officials have issued a Spotted Lanternfly Order of Quarantine and treatment, which goes as far to inflict fines and, potentially, criminal penalties on anyone who intentionally moves the lanternfly from one location to another via objects like recreational vehicles, tractors, mowers, mobile homes, grills, tarps and fire pits. City officials, however, have taken a different approach.
“We’ve met with the [Department of Environmental Conservation] a couple of times this year ... and they showed us some tried and true techniques. And so what we did was we installed 12 traps ... and what we found is that we average about 150 to 160 (lanternflies) a week that we catch – and those are only the ones we catch,” said Ryan Torres, the Assistant Vice President of Parks Operations at the Battery Park Authority (BPCA).
The 12 traps are strapped to trees around the park and capture lanternflies that crawl up the tree, subsequently killing them with insecticide.
Where to Put Traps
Torres said the traps also help the authority monitor which parts of the park are seeing the greater infestation.
“It turns out that it seems that we’re catching most of those in the North of Battery Park City,” said Torres, noting that while there’s only a two mile difference between the North and South of the park, these details help guide the authority in deciding where to put their traps. “We’ll continue to put those tracks in from May to September – when the adults are active – so that we can monitor [things like] are those numbers going up, are those numbers going down, where are they going, which way are they heading? That will hopefully answer those questions.”
In addition to pulverizing the insect, Torres said park-goers can also help the authority monitor the lanternfly by visiting the park’s iNaturalist page (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/battery-park-city-wildlife), or downloading the iNaturalist app, to detail where they’ve spotted the insect and other details.
“We’re encouraging not just our staff and our team members, but everybody who lives, works and visits Battery Park City can use the iNaturalist app to monitor their spotting so that we can also use those numbers as well. Having that data is really helpful,” said Torres. “With every infestation comes solutions.”
While residents have spent the last couple months attempting to kill any lanternfly that might fly by, these insects have also been busy laying eggs all over the city. And while adult lanternflies do not live through the cold winter months, the egg clusters they leave behind will pose a real problem when they begin to hatch next spring.
“Our next purpose in life will be scouting trees, the sides of buildings, some of the rocks at the Esplanade - I mean they can lay eggs on just about anything,” said Torres. “We’ll be scouting for egg masses and we’ll be trying to remove as many of those as possible in an effort to minimize the population.”
The BPCA have not directly called on the public yet to aid in that mission, but the help of New Yorkers to destroy these egg clusters will surely be needed.
“[The egg masses] can be a couple of inches long, but they are very flat to the surface; kind of muddy looking,” said Torres. “And so if you’re not trained, I could easily see how somebody might just kind of assume it’s a defect in the granite or the trunk is supposed to look like that. It’s definitely noticeable, but you just have to know what you’re looking for.”
For now, the directive from Torres is very clear: Swat Away.
“We’re encouraging ... everybody who lives, works and visits Battery Park City [to] use the iNaturalist app to monitor their spotting so that we can also use those numbers as well. Having that data is really helpful.” Ryan Torres of the Battery Park Authority