Over the summer, for the first time in what feels like a while, Americans united under a single cause: to murder an invasive bug.
Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but the situation itself was a bit dramatic. Social media was flooded with people in New York City, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey striking down spotted lanternflies in the most creative ways. Videos of the plant-sucking bugs that are native to parts of Asia showed them overtaking trees. Reports from Pennsylvania said they were capable of wiping out vineyards. Researchers warned they also threaten fruit trees and the hardwoods like black walnut. The public went on high alert. The messaging was clear: Stop this bug before it decimates the fruit and timber industries and costs the US tons of money.
People struck them down all summer long, and now that it’s fall … well, they’re still here. And they’ve spread.
Is it futile? That depends. If you set out with your flyswatters and sticky traps thinking we could wipe out every lanternfly, then you were a bit misguided. But just because we can’t stop them entirely doesn’t mean we should quit.
Kristie Reddick, an entomologist and director of The Bug Chicks, put it best: “People cleaning trash out of creeks aren’t going to be like, ‘Oh, I picked up, like, three bags of trash and there’s still more trash. I guess there’s just trash now.’” Spotted lanternflies are the trash in this metaphor.
Check out the video above to find out more about spotted lanternflies and the part humans have played in spreading them around the US.
You can find this video and others like it on Vox’s YouTube channel.