Even as the invasive pest spreads across 11 states and threatens agriculture, lanternflies are winning sympathizers who resist kill-on-sight orders.

In the Lanternfly War, Some Take the Bug’s Side

When Lee Weiss, 31, sees a spotted lanternfly an invasive pest so voracious that it is the target of several officially-sanctioned smash-on-sight campaigns he acts swiftly. He scoops each crimson creature up. Then he carefully hides it from any would-be assassins. Mr. Weiss is among an emerging group of conscientious objectors to the open-season on the insect. Their reasons differ: Some are vegans who find killing even pests wrong. Others doubt the threat lanternflies pose or have been repulsed by the glee surrounding lanternfly annihilation. Some people are faced with a flurry of lanternflies, despite years of dedicated squishing, and have just given up. Still another few think lanternflies are too cute to kill. The gray-and-red-winged planthopper from China first showed up in Pennsylvania in 2014. It has since swarmed across at least 11 states including New York, growing as an agricultural threat, particularly to grape harvests and fruit trees, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Several studies on the encroaching invasion have projected that lanternflies could do upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars of damageWhile the infestation rages on the East Coast, scientific models have predicted that the bugs could spread across the country, reaching California’s wine country by the next decade.

To fight back, state and local officials in infested areas have enlisted their constituents in an anti-lanternfly militia. Authorities in battlegrounds such as New York, New Jersey and in particular, Pennsylvania, the insects’ apparent ground zero, have framed the campaign against the creature as an act of civic duty. Calls to action to civilians to stamp out the invaders literally have been enthusiastically met; in New York, Brooklyn summer campers engage in lanternfly hunts and the state park preserve on Staten Island hosted a squishathon in 2021. Last year, a New Jersey woman threw a lanternfly-crushing pub crawl; one Pennsylvania man developed an app that tracks users’ kills called Squishr. Mr. Weiss, a former instructor of Buddhist philosophy who lives in Philadelphia, has not crushed a single lanternfly. “It’s phrased in almost moral terms,” said Mr. Weiss, of the rallying cries gathering the forces aligned against lanternflies. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture runs a hotline to report the bugs at 1-888-4BADFLY, and asks people to “Kill it! Squash it, smash it … just get rid of it,” on its website. Holding up a picture of a spotted lanternfly like a wanted poster, New York State Senator Chuck Schumer stood at a news conference near Central Park earlier this month, calling for more federal funds to be used to fight the scourge.

Source: This news is originally published by nytimes

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