Teen Genius Invents Trap to Battle Invasive Lanternflies

teen genius invents trap to battle invasive lanternflies.jpg Science

In a remarkable display of youthful ingenuity, a teenager in Montgomery, Maryland, has taken the fight against the invasive spotted lanternfly into her own hands. The spotted lanternfly, a species native to eastern Asia, was first identified in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014 and has been steadily invading Maryland since October 2018. This insect, a relative of aphids and cicadas, feeds by sucking sap from plants, causing significant damage. The teenager’s homemade trap, designed to rid her favorite maple tree of these pests, astonishingly captured 1,200 of these insects within a fortnight.

The spotted lanternfly poses a serious threat to ecosystems and agricultural production, despite its seemingly innocuous nature. Although they prefer to feed on exotic tree species, these insects are not picky eaters; they will also feed on native plants. Their feeding habits can attract other insects, promote mold growth, and pose a significant risk to agriculture. The spread of these insects, primarily facilitated by humans unknowingly transporting their eggs, has led to quarantine orders in several parts of Maryland. Despite their name, spotted lanternflies are not actually flies; they are plant hoppers, capable of hopping around in their juvenile stage and flying short distances as adults.

Unwanted Visitor: The Spotted Lanternfly

Spotted lanternflies, or Lycorma delicatula, are an invasive species native to eastern Asia. They’ve become an unwelcome guest in the United States, where they’ve been causing agricultural and ecological havoc. Their presence was first noted in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014, and they’ve been spreading in Maryland since October 2018. A quarantine order is now in place in several parts of Maryland. The ingenious solution of a local teenager, who constructed her own lanternfly trap, caught our attention. Over the span of two weeks, she managed to capture 1,200 of these pests.

Misunderstood Menaces: Why Spotted Lanternflies Are a Problem

Despite their name, spotted lanternflies aren’t flies at all. They’re plant hoppers, belonging to the Hemiptera order, making them relatives of aphids and cicadas. They can hop around in their juvenile stage and fly short distances when they’re adults. Unfortunately, they’re mainly being spread around by humans, who unknowingly transport their eggs on plants, firewood, and construction materials.

These creatures pose a significant threat as they have the potential to massively disrupt ecosystems and agricultural production. They feed on both exotic and native plants, sucking sap from young leaves and stems, causing damage and attracting other insects, which then promotes mold growth. The primary threat is to agriculture, where their presence can be devastating.

Stopping the Spread: How to Trap Lanternflies

Spotted lanternflies have a distinctive appearance, making them easy to spot. Resembling a moth, they are about an inch long with grey to red wings covered in black spots. Their hind wings feature a distinct splash of bright red.

Trapping lanternflies typically involves targeting them as they climb up tree trunks from the ground. One common method is placing a sticky band around the tree trunk, but this can unintentionally ensnare native insects, reptiles, and even birds. An alternative is a circle weevil trap, comprised of a tunnel of insect screening that leads to a dead end.

Inspired by our inventive teenager, you too can create your own lanternfly circle trap with simple household items. This could play a crucial role in mitigating the spread of these invasive pests.

Ingenious Teen Takes on Invasive Species

This innovative solution to an invasive problem underscores the potential we all have to contribute to maintaining our local ecosystems. The teen’s resourcefulness and dedication serve as an inspiring example of citizen science in action.


The spotted lanternfly’s invasion of the United States is a stark reminder of the potential consequences of introducing non-native species to new environments. While professionals continue to research and implement larger scale solutions, individual efforts like the ingenious trap created by this teenager also play a vital role. It’s a testament to the power of human ingenuity in solving complex ecological problems.

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