Talk About Overkill: Pa. Residents Are Incinerating a Seasonal Pest with Propane Torches

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No reports in Pa. indicate that residents have taken up flamethrowers to fight the spotted lanternfly infestation; however, some have tried rather risky mitigation techniques.

Lanternflies. Yes, they’re annoying. And yes, they affect agribusinesses. But some mitigation techniques against them are getting a bit extreme, writes Abigail Gruskin for The Atlantic.

In fact, the entire issue of the need to actively eliminate the critters is being questioned.

Spotted lanternflies were predicted to decimate local trees, farms, and vineyards since they first appeared in the region in 2014. By 2019, Penn State University was estimating their economic damage at more than $324 million statewide.

In reality, however, their crop onslaught never fully materialized.

According to Erin Otto, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “damage to vineyards in Pennsylvania has been scattered and inconsistent.”

Furthermore, in many cases, Pa. residents’ battle techniques do more harm than good.

Reports statewide find residents taking propane torches to their property’s trees and dousing plant life with kerosene. One well-meaning Pennsylvanian attempted to flame out lanternfly eggs using an aerosol can of hair spray and a lighter, producing a dangerous jet of flaming annihilation.

With the infestation’s economic impact being reconsidered and human efforts to reduce populations proving either ineffective (squishing) or risky (fire), the best tactic may be none at all.

Kelli Hoover, a Penn State entomologist who studies the insect, said, “We’re going to have to learn to live with them.”

More about the spotted lanternfly is in The Atlantic.

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