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When the Spotted Lanternfly arrived in Pennsylvania from China, NPR reported that it could be the worst invasive species in the United States in 150 Years. Yesterday, it was spotted in Hell’s Kitchen for the first time — after reported sightings in the Upper West Side and Central Park earlier in the week.

The Spotted Lanternfly climbing on W58th Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien.

The first Hell’s Kitchen sighting was at 610 W58th Street between 11th/12th Avenue yesterday just before 2pm. The insect was climbing on the outside of the building and briefly showed its bright red inner wing before walking up the side of the luxury tower.

Gothamist yesterday called for a killing spree in a headline: “We Must Come Together And Kill The Dreaded Spotted Lanternflies“. Even NYC Parks is putting out a request to terminate the insects. “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: if you see a spotted lanternfly, please squish and dispose of this invasive pest,” they say on their website — while asking spotters to send a picture of the dead insect and where the image was taken.

The insects are not harmful to humans but can wreck plants, crops and trees. With 689,227 sidewalk trees in New York City — 1,860 of those on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen — there is cause for concern. The Lanternfly does not kill trees — it infests. This will weaken any tree’s natural defenses. If you want to get a feel for what an infestation looks like, watch the video below [WARNING: Not for the squeamish]

Reddit users from Pennsylvania have been offering advice to New Yorkers faced with the invader. “Stomping tip from someone who’s dealt with them in Philly — come at them from the front, they won’t see you coming. If you try to step on them from behind or the side, they’re more likely to jump,” shared twentyfourducks. “In the fall, start checking trees for their egg sacs and scrape them off with a credit card if you have the stomach for it, they look like white moldy spots on the tree or like someone spread plaster around a tree.”

Another Philly Redditor, c_lowww, chimed in to offer some perspective on what will happen if we don’t act on this: “We didn’t take them seriously at first and regretted it. Spent the entirety of last summer killing 200-300 of these A DAY in my backyard.”

The Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is its preferred host tree and is required for its reproduction — there is one of those a block away from our sighting along W58th Street, and another two on W44th Street, east of 9th Avenue. We checked this morning — they were bug-free. Please keep an eye out — and in the words of Hopper from A Bug’s Life: “Squish ’em!”

*Additional reporting by Alexandra Alexa

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12 Comments

  1. I first saw them on my terrace at Manhattan Plaza on August 6 & 7! I took pictures because I didn’t know what they were and posted on Facebook. I immediately contacted the NYS Dept of Agriculture to report the sighting. I saw another one on Sunday, 8/15 on the train platform at Newark Airport Station and I squished it!

  2. I saw them yesterday on the west side park, btw 58th and 60th st on the park. I thought it was a butterfly

  3. Thanks Phil! For the video. But Since it does not fly I was wondering how they were getting up to 18th etc. Floors. Very impressive climbing but SQUISH!

  4. Get rid of the host plant, Tree of Heaven, better named Tree of Hell. It too is invasive, displaces native trees, and poisons soil.

  5. All over 43rd and 11th Avenue, the Lantern flies have invaded. Especially by Sky and 44th street between 10th and 11th Avenue. Make sure you brush yourself off before entering your building, because they like to hitch a ride.

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