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  • Juliet Seyer and Nina Cantos

Lantern Flies: Our Mortal Enemy?

It was a beautiful day. Not too chilly and just the right amount of sunlight poking through the clouds and shining over the campus. It was the perfect weather for people to eat on the patio during lunch. In fact, we were sitting there talking, having a good time with our friends, enjoying lunch, and discussing our days. However, this idyllic peace was soon disrupted when across the patio, a boy spotted it. The mortal enemy: a spotted lanternfly.

Many people dislike bugs, but they aren’t uncommon around our campus. From bees to flies to spiders, Edgemont has them all. Usually, as long as they don’t bother us, we don’t bother them. But, spotted lanternflies seem to be an exception. Everyone acts as if these bugs have committed a personal crime against them.

This boy was no exception. The second he saw this bug, or should I say ‘criminal’, he sprang into action. He ran across the patio at record speed, yelling out a battle cry. Once he reached the bug, he took his foot, lifted it up, and smashed it. It was a more aggressive act than you could ever imagine. After multiple smashes against the ground, he still was yet to be satisfied. He pounded it again, again, and again. He continued to crush the poor bug long after it was dead.

By the time he finally finished the job, it wasn’t even recognizable. Does this seem excessive to anyone else? It did to us. We wondered what the big deal about these insects was, and if the extreme reaction was really necessary. So, we researched.

Our first question was, what is a lanternfly anyway? We had been told that they were a threat to society because they were invasive, but we didn’t really know what that meant. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, spotted lanternflies were first found in New York in 2020. They are described as an inch long with brightly colored wings. They are terrible for tourism and feed on trees, which isn’t good for forests and our environment.

Most people don’t know that their main source of food is actually an invasive tree species, the Tree of Heaven. In an article by the “The Nature Conservatory,” we learned that the Tree of Heaven was introduced to the U.S. in the late 1700’s. Since then it has proved to be quite problematic because it takes space from native tree species. We were shocked to find this out! All we had been told about spotted lanternflies was that they were horrible and disgusting, but clearly we weren’t told the whole story.

We won’t argue with the fact that they are a nuisance; as humans, we despise things that make us uncomfortable, and this species would fall into that category. If you're a person who is afraid of bugs, it’s easy to see why you wouldn’t get along so well with these flies. Lanternflies are larger than your average insect and look a bit intimidating. However, you don’t usually see people get so riled up over a tiny mosquito. And unlike mosquitos, they don’t bite. So, fear can’t be the only reason people have become so violent.

It’s possible that people have become lanternfly killers to boost their ego. People like to feel powerful and assert their control over another creature. They tell themselves that they have to do this for the good of others, but who are they really benefiting? While our state government does want you to kill invasive species, do you really have to make it such a scene?

After our research, we have come to appreciate spotted lanternflies. We don’t really think they aren’t worth all the hype. So, if you’re one of those people that enjoys aggressively attacking these bugs, please rethink this action. We have attempted to explain to our friends that they should take their anger out in more positive ways, like a punching bag or screaming into a pillow.

Yet, it seems that some people will never be convinced. For instance, take the kid from lunch. His repeated violence tells us that nothing but lanternfly extinction will stop his reign of terror over the flies. Each person has to decide for him or herself: are you going to relentlessly chase these bugs, or maybe adopt a more benevolent approach? The choice is yours.


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