MILLSTONE – Elementary school pupils from Millstone Township are encouraging residents to identify an invasive insect that could be in their backyards.
Residents are being asked by the pupils to participate in a virtual event scheduled for April 25. Those who participate will look for evidence on trees, fences and buildings of egg masses and nymphs belonging to Lycorma deliculata, an invasive insect species commonly referred to as the spotted lanternfly.
Residents who see evidence of the spotted lanterfly are being asked to take a picture of what they have observed and to send the pictures to 1-833-BADBUG-0.
Residents are also being asked to collect the egg masses/nymphs by scraping them into a plastic bag, pouring rubbing alcohol into the bag before sealing it and placing it in the trash.
The residents are being asked to share the pictures on social media with the hashtags #spottedlanternflies and #cmpsmillstone.
Images of spotted lanternfly egg masses and nymphs are provided on a flier from the pupils that can be found at http://www.millstonenj.gov/notices/2020/SLF-Event-042520.pdf
The pupils from the Millstone Township Elementary School leading the event are known as “Stopping the Spread of the Spotted Lanternfly” and have been working on a project to combat the invasive species since 2019.
According to the pupils, the spotted lanternfly is a plant hopper that is native to China, India and Vietnam. Although it has two pairs of wings, it primarily moves by jumping instead of flying.
The spotted lanternfly was first recorded in the United States in 2014 after it was found in Pennsylvania. The insect has only recently been spotted in New Jersey, first being seen in western areas of the state in 2018.
While the spotted lanternfly has not been found in Millstone Township or any other municipality in Monmouth County as of March 2020, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the pupils are concerned about its presence in New Jersey in part because the insect has been found in Mercer County, which borders Millstone Township.
The spotted lanternfly has also been observed in Hunterdon and Warren counties, which border Mercer County, leading the Department of Agriculture to establish a quarantine in those three counties.
The pupils explained that the spotted lanternfly feeds off and destroys more than 70 types of hosts, including grapes, tree fruit, pines and hardwood trees. The preferred food source for adult spotted lanterflies is the Tree of Heaven, which the pupils said is a fast-growing, deciduous, exotic invasive tree native to China.
The Tree of Heaven can reach a height of more than 80 feet and is able to grow in a variety of soil and site conditions, including Perrineville Lake Park in Millstone Township, according to the pupils. The youngsters are advising residents to get rid of that specific type of tree to help prevent the spread of the spotted lanternfly.