Time is running out to help more easily eradicate a huge threat to New Jersey’s peach and apple trees as well as many other trees and agricultural crops.
Every day I walk around my yard and patio squashing little black bugs that look like big ticks with white spots on them. They cannot fly, but are excellent jumpers. Sometimes it takes two or three times for a successful squish, but it’s worth it.
This week, I noticed a new arrival: slightly larger red thumbtacks. It gave me an even greater sense of urgency.
The Mottled Lantern began to emerge from the pupal stage egg clusters in May. They are now entering the next phase of development where they turn red. They still don’t have the ability to fly, but not for very long.
In a few weeks, they will develop wings and take flight in search of food. They like peach, apple, and hardwood varieties like red maple and black walnut. They also feed on river birches and willows. In large swarms, they can kill trees within days. They will also start laying eggs in the fall, which will trigger a new swarm next spring.
Joe Zoltowski, director of the Plant Industry Division at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, urges New Jerseyans to destroy as many as they can.
“You have a better chance of getting a bigger population reduction because they don’t have that opportunity to fly away,” Zoltowski said.
As of February 2022, an infestation of spotted lantern flies had been recorded in every county in New Jersey except Cape May.
Thirteen counties – Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Salem, Somerset, Union and Warren – remain part of the state’s “quarantine zone” for Mottled Lanterns.
Area residents are required to use a checklist before moving any of the items listed here. The list includes dozens of items, including bicycles, motorhomes, firewood, fences, lawn mowers and sandboxes.
Eric Scott is the senior policy director and anchor of New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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