Spotted lanternflies, those pesky dotted bugs, are back. Midway through the summer, the invasive insects have made appearances across Manhattan, from Downtown to the Upper West Side.
“Harming our city’s wildlife is prohibited, but in an effort to slow the spread of this troublesome species, we are putting out a one-time call,” a Parks Department statement reads. The special directive: When you see one, squish it.
New Yorkers are happily complying. Some have documented their kills on Twitter, a new form of environmentally-minded virtue signaling. Others note the locations of their sightings — a lone “threat” at Pier 51 in Hudson River Park; an “infestation” at Nomad Tower, on Broadway Avenue between West 31st and 32nd Streets; a snack for a black-billed cuckoo bird seen near Central Park’s Azalea Pond.
Why have city dwellers taken up the cause? All because the jumping bugs could harm agricultural crops including grapes, hops, apples and stone fruits, according to the Parks Department. Spotted lanternflies aren’t, however, “considered a widespread threat to our city’s forests,” the agency reports, since they don’t commonly kill trees.
In New York, the Parks Department is working with state and federal agencies to conduct surveys and organize methods of combating the bugs, but won’t be initiating “widespread treatment,” in part because of the high price tag and potentially limited effectiveness. In Manhattan, you don’t technically need to report your sightings (or stompings), at least to the Parks Department.
The bugs, native to China, first caught New Yorkers’ attention in 2020. Since arriving in the U.S. in 2014 and running amuck in Pennsylvania, their first destination, they’ve spread through at least 11 states, including New York and New Jersey.