You Have a License to Commit Bug Murder (Just Don’t Use a Gun)

Home Technology You Have a License to Commit Bug Murder (Just Don’t Use a Gun)
You Have a License to Commit Bug Murder (Just Don’t Use a Gun)
A spotted lanternfly at a vineyard in Kutztown, PA.
Photo: Matt Rourke (AP)

Move over, murder hornets. There’s a new invasive bug in town: the spotted lanternfly.

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The bugs first arrived in Pennsylvania in 2014, but they’re spreading across the Northeast. Eight New Jersey counties have been labeled as quarantine zones by the state Department of Agriculture, meaning anyone leaving those counties should make sure no lanternflies are hitching a ride. Other states are cracking down and asking residents to kill any of the invasive bugs they find.

These easily recognizable insects measure up to an inch (2.5 centimeters) in length. When they’re fully grown, their front wings are white with black speckles, and their hind wings are fire-engine red with black spots. And they can’t fly very far, so they cartoonishly hop between plants. Unlike murder hornets, they don’t actually sting or bite.

Instead, they pose a threat to agriculture. Spotted lanternflies infest fruit trees and suck out the sap. They can also eat their way through agricultural fields. When the bugs chow down, they excrete a sticky goop called honeydew which forms a film on plants and interferes with photosynthesis, reducing crop yields.