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They’re back… and it’s time for action! Spotted Lanternflies have once again been seen in Hell’s Kitchen — and this time it’s their babies (known as nymphs) leading the charge.  The pesky pests that play havoc with our trees are BIG trouble — and the advice of everyone (even environmental conservationists) is to “squish ‘em” on sight!

The spotted lanternfly nymphs spotted in Hell’s Kitchen last week. Photo: Charlie Todd

Hordes of Spotted Lanternflies were detected around the West Side at the end of last summer, and they appear to have returned for a second season. Charlie Todd, who lives in the West 50s, noticed the interloping insects again this week. 

“I was watering my flowers on my balcony, and found two tiny insects that were black with white spots,” he said. “I had never seen anything like them before, so I did some Googling. To my horror, I discovered they were the dreaded Spotted Lanternfly! I killed three of them on my balcony last summer, so I’m familiar with what they look like, but I had no idea what the nymphs looked like until now. I was able to kill one of them. It tried hopping away just like the adults do!” 

The Life Cycle of the Spotted Lanternfly. Illustration: Colleen Witkowski/Penn State University

The Spotted Lanternfly, also known as the Lycorma delicatula, was first identified in the US in 2014, and has since spread up the East Coast to New York. The insect — which does not fly but “plant hops” from tree to tree, feeds on woody, ornamental, and fruit trees, and decimates crops quickly by sucking the sap out of plants en masse, weakening them and causing an unpleasant odor and sooty mold on infested specimens. 

If you’re feeling conflicted about squashing the buggers, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation actually advises you to do so, according to their website, adding: “We encourage everyone to be on the lookout for this pest.” In a Gothamist article about last summer’s invasion, the New York State Department of Agriculture went so far as to tell New Yorkers to “please freeze, squish, and dispose of” the menaces. If you’re still not convinced, watch the video below to understand how invasive they can be if left to their own devices!

As the weather warms and you’re strolling around town, keep an eye out for the insects with distinctive grayish-reddish wings with black and white spots. While we humans may have trouble catching them before they hop away, we do have one powerful ally — the Praying Mantis. It is one of the Spotted Lanternfly’s most well-known predators (along with chickens, blue jays, cardinals, and catbirds). While mantises snack on Spotted Lanternflies however, there is a downside to their assistance — they also chomp on helpful pollinators like bees and butterflies. For now, we mere mammals will have to watch the insect Battle Royale play out and hope for the best. 

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