How to trap spotted lanternflies without harming other wildlife

Regional News

This Sept. 19, 2019, file photo, shows a spotted lanternfly at a vineyard in Kutztown, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — Spotted lanternflies have been bugging Pennsylvanians for years, but sometimes efforts to address these invasive insects end up harming other wildlife. Using circle traps or altering sticky trap setups are a couple of ways to make sure one’s environmental efforts don’t go awry.

While sticky traps intended for lanternflies can sometimes hurt birds and other animals, circle traps are a bit more targeted. They funnel spotted lanternflies crawling up tree trunks through some netting and into a container such as a plastic bag.

Circle traps can be bought online, or they can be made at home fairly easily. Penn State Extension offers detailed instructions for creating a DIY circle trap here.

Circle trap (Photo: Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State)

“The nice thing about this particular type of trap is that it is unlikely to catch other types of wildlife, like birds and squirrels and things like that, that sometimes…may get stuck on those sticky bands that people wrap around trees,” Amy Korman, horticulture extension educator at Penn State Extension, said.

Although Korman says circle traps seem to be the best option for protecting other wildlife, people who want to use sticky traps can also take steps to mitigate bycatches. They should build a raised wire or mesh guard around the trap to prevent other wildlife from getting stuck.

Penn State Extension notes that chicken wire will not make a great barrier because small animals and beneficial insects can still get through it. Instead, the organization suggests using a material like vinyl window screening.

To use this mitigation method, Penn State Extension’s website says, “Secure the screening to the tree above the sticky band with pushpins and leave it open at the bottom. It should extend several inches above and below the sticky band and be close to the tree at all points to prevent larger creatures from flying or climbing underneath.”

Anyone using sticky traps should check the traps daily to ensure no other animals have been caught. If an animal is caught, individuals should not attempt to free it themselves. Instead, they should cover the rest of the sticky area with something like tissue paper, remove the trap from the tree, and take it to an animal rehabilitator for help.

Some people may prefer to use pesticides rather than traps to address spotted lanternflies. Korman noted that this must be done carefully to prevent pollinators and other beneficial species from being harmed, although she said pesticides do “have an important role in any kind of pest management control.”

Korman said that managing spotted lanternflies requires an integrated approach that can include eliminating eggs, trapping the bugs, and — sometimes — deploying pesticides.

“The concern anytime that anyone wants to use a pesticide is that this may affect non-target insects,” Korman said. Closely reading and following the instructions on pesticide labels can help individuals use the chemicals in a way that minimizes their impacts on other species, Korman explained.

For example, the directions might say not to use the pesticide around blooming plants. Korman also encouraged people using pesticides to select substances that are labeled for the specific type of area where they will be used.

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Spotted lanternflies pose a major threat to grape plants, and while Korman said they don’t usually kill trees, they can act as a stressor for trees, making them more susceptible to pathogens or infestations by other bugs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reports that spotted lanternflies could cost the state thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars per year if efforts are not taken to control the invasive species.

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