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Invasive Species: Spotted Lanternfly’s Unique Impact

When we think of invasive species, environmental destruction is often the first thought that comes to mind. Native species go extinct and ecosystems are permanently damaged. With commonly cited invasive species like emerald ash borers, the fungus that killed chestnut trees, zebra mussels, etc., they have decimated species related to them, predators, and native hosts. 

Environmental devastation also leads to economic downfalls and a nuisance impact on the public. Yet, the spotted lanternfly differs from how we perceive invasive species. They are primarily an invasive species threatening to impact local economies.

 Environmentally, the spotted lanternfly weakens native trees but does not kill them. Other than that, they may take away native insect habitat, but that has not been well-documented yet. Their real impact comes from wiping out grape vineyards and nursery stock, and potential impacts in Christmas trees, hops, and nut trees.

The spotted lanternfly has over 70 tree species that it feeds on, meaning that weakening plants lowers crop production and product value. With less money made, thousands of jobs could be impacted. Knowing such a unique impact, this is why we need citizens and businesses to join together to manage the spotted lanternfly. Even if spotted lanternflies aren’t leading to extinction and ecosystem damage, farmers and nursery operators’ jobs are at stake and they need our help.

Let’s join together in protecting American industry and jobs. Four general guidelines can be followed: squash when you see it, look before you leave, report it if you find it, and don’t transport them. Look to Penn State Extension at for additional advice in joining the battle against the bug.

Amanda Goldsmith

Citations:

Harper, J. K., Kelsey, T. W., Stone, W., & Kine, L. F. (2019). Potential Economic Impact of the Spotted Lanternfly on Agriculture and Forestry in Pennsylvania, 1–84.