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Spotted lanternfly, a crop-killing pest, is hitchhiking and hopping its way to the Midwest

Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — A small, winged pest some people even think is pretty is getting a lot of attention online, as agriculture and natural resource experts warn that it can do considerable damage to grapes and, once established, is difficult to kill.

Lycorma delicatula — better known as the dreaded spotted lanternfly — made its way from Asia to the United States at least a decade ago, and agriculture officials now fear it's slowly making its way to Michigan and other nearby states.

Adult spotted lanternflies are identifiable by their bright body and wing colors.

"It's a pest we are concerned about in the state of Michigan," said Robert Miller, an invasive species expert with the state's agriculture department. "We are asking the public to be on the lookout and to report it if they think they see it. I can't say if and when it will arrive. But I think there's a possibility we'll see it eventually."

In the meantime, the internet is turning the insect into an evil Mothra.

In the last few days, there have been multiple online reports and warnings. Many, if not most, of the headlines, invoke the language of violence and death. CBS: "There's a beautiful spotted insect flying across the U.S. — and officials want you to kill it." The New York Times: "Die, Beautiful Spotted Lanternfly, Die"


Other publications got even more creative: The Staten Island (N.Y.) Media Group mentions a squishathon, the Gothamist, also in New York, screams, "We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boot," and wants you to watch a video of a guy who "killed thousands of spotted lanternflies in days."

It could be considered a lot of clickbait.

But beyond the hype, the lanternfly is a real problem without much of a solution.

Miller points out one of the consequences of global travel and trade is that insects, animals, and plants are increasingly ending up in places they shouldn't be, and in many cases destroying the environments around them.


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