Photo by Magi Kern on Unsplash

Don’t Blame the Lanternfly

We Should Have Left Him in Asia

This is a cautionary tale that you’ve all heard before.

I trample on those innocent looking, elegant black and orange, Lycorma delicatula, otherwise known as the notorious spotted lanternflies, whenever I can catch the little monsters, because they are fast and I see them squashed by others on the roadsides and trails but I can’t keep up with them as they continue their uninterrupted assault on farms and trees throughout the region. But don’t blame the lanternfly, they were brought to the U.S. aboard container ships while they should have stayed in their native lands in Asia where they were naturally kept at bay by Asian wasps of which there are none here.

The spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect from Asia first spotted in North American in Berks County, Pa., in 2014, has no native predators but some birds have been known to munch on them, but don’t expect an Ivory billed woodpecker to swoop down for a snack because the woodpecker has recently been determined extinct.

The praying mantis, wheel bugs and spiders like to eat lanternflies but there aren’t enough of them to keep up with the lanternflies so some scientists are considering cloning or introducing another non-native predator to eat the lanternflies. In the 1800s, at the behest of hunters, Australia also introduced a new species, the European rabbits and that hasn’t worked out well because rabbits eat a lot of produce on farms and they multiply like rabbits so there are now about 200 million feral rabbits in Australia. I don’t think introducing a new non-native predator is a good way to solve the lanternfly infestation.

I imagine scientists are studying if the praying mantis, wheel bugs and spiders could be genetically modified to make them large enough and voracious enough to take care of the lanternflies. Can anyone spell Stephen King. I understand that a female praying mantis tries to eat the male after and during sex, something the scientists call “sexual cannibalism” and imagine if the mutant mantises become large enough that they decide to get turned on to humans and can anyone spell Stephen King, the sequel? The wheel bug is one of the largest terrestrial true bugs in North America, and I cannot say that I would ever sleep again knowing there were uncontrolled numbers of the ugly critters just waiting to crawl in bed with me. I don’t even want to get into spiders.

Spotted lanternflies are originally from parts of China, India and Vietnam where they are kept in check by native wasps and pathogens but there are none of this special wasp in the U.S. The first confirmed lanternfly sighting in the U.S. was on Sept. 29, 2014, when the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania Game Commission verified its presence. The buggers were apparently introduced while stowing away on shipping containers and ultimately on trucks transporting materials containing egg masses. In July 2018, a spotted lanternfly was confirmed in three New Jersey counties and a quarantine order was issued for eight counties in August 2020.

And this leads me, as it always does in times of trouble, to trump, the same ex-president whose tree-hugging, environmentalist, nature loving sons, Erick and Donald Jr., posed proudly with animals they had murdered while on safari in Zimbabwe and included a dead elephant, kudu, civet cat and waterbuck. And it is the same ex-president who was the first president in 100 years not to have a pet dog in the White House. So I figure trump cares more about money than animals and I don’t think I’m going on a limb and that is why during his brief, nightmarish administration, trump relaxed legal penalties for energy companies, construction firms and land developers that unintentionally killed birds through activities such as construction and oil drilling.

Enter President Joe Biden, who on Wednesday revoked the trump policy and reinstituted the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule restores environmental protections which prohibits the “take” of migratory bird species, otherwise known as hunting, killing, capturing or selling. Trump, officials excluded accidental deaths from the “take” definition, something his buds in the oil and gas industry had favored and no doubt backed up with obscene amounts of campaign contributions.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration was too late to save the ivory-billed woodpecker from extinction. The Fish and Wildlife Service reported on Wednesday that the woodpecker and 22 other species can no longer be found in the wild. The National Audobon Society noted that the ivory-billed woodpecker is just the latest bird to be considered extinct and that there are about 3 billion fewer birds since 1970.

Extinct species means no more. never, after millions of years of evolution and wonder, no more, because of human interruption of the natural cycle. Everything has a purpose, even lanternflies, which provide nourishment to wasps in Asia. But really, who cares about animals, we have more important fish to fry, so to speak, including COVID 19, fascism on the rise, climate change, Brittany Spears. Speaking of birds, they not only are part of the natural cycle to regulate pests and keep the crops healthy but they are part of the natural beauty, a value that cannot be measured. It’s like trying to explain why a Beethoven symphony is beautiful, it just is.

And while I mention birds, another creature that takes to the skies, the American bumblebee, may soon be declared an endangered species by the federal government. The Center for Biological Diversity and Bombus Pollinators Association of Law Students, said the population of the American bumblebee population has declined by 89 percent over the past 20 years. The decline is attributed to habitat loss, pesticides, disease, climate change competition with honey bees and the loss of genetic diversity. The American bumblebee is not just a gorgeous creature, it also plays an important role in ecosystems as pollinators, pollinating wildflowers and other crops using vibration.

Scientists said that around 902 species have been documented as extinct worldwide.

Most recently, that includes the flat pigtoe, a freshwater mussel in the southeastern, green-blossom pearly mussel, Southern acornshell, stirrupshell, tubercled-blossom pearly mussel, turgid-blossom pearly mussel, upland combshell and the yellow-blossom pearly mussel; and birds, like the Kauai akialoa, Kauai nukupuu, Kauai O’o, large Kauai thrush, Maui akepa, Maui nukupuʻu, Molokai creeper and the poʻouli; the bridled white-eye bird and the Little Mariana fruit bat, San Marcos gambusia fish, the Scioto madtom fish and the Bachman’s warbler.

Whenever nature is interrupted or destroyed, we all suffer and that is very bad.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer