Last weekend afternoon, Damian Violo went to Hudson Yards with his wife to meet a drawing group that is usually held in Central Park, where the mysteries of nature are more surely revealed. On this day, the mall and office park provided suspicious inspiration, but shortly after arriving, they found something very beautiful out of context. A small creature with two pairs of wings, the front is elegantly set in light gray, dotted with black, the back is small, accented with bright red. It was near the entrance to the high line.
Those who don’t have a grasp of Mr. Violo’s special moments may have just begun to sketch what looks like the details of the exquisite Chinoiserie wallpaper, but he’s in front of something insidious. I knew. After two attempts, he managed to crush it.
Biollo, a software engineer who follows many naturalists online, correctly identified what he was seeing as a spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). Invading pests from Asia, arriving in the United States seven years ago and arriving in New York City last year, were immediately on the list of local environmentalists’ most wanted list for energy extermination projects like General Patton. Landed.
“I walked around for 10 minutes looking for them, and I killed eight people,” he told me. That day, they were everywhere in the limited area from 34th Avenue to 11th Avenue. He killed 76-40 people in just a few minutes in two hours. “I honestly felt like I was in a twisted video game,” he said. “I killed eight people, and maybe I thought I could reach a high score of 10.”
Violo understood that lantern flies were a problem for many reasons, but they ate mainly the sap of more than 70 species of plants, were vulnerable to disease and other natural antagonists, and had a climate. It changes because there is a risk of retreating the fight against. In Pennsylvania, the issue is taken so seriously that the state has issued an order to quarantine and treat spotted lanternflies. Move to another location via “RVs, tractors, lawnmowers, grills”, “tarps, mobile homes, tiles, stones, deckboards” or “fire pits”.
Insects bounce and fly only a short distance, but they are easy to move and breed in maniacs. “They can ride a baseball cap behind your car,” Ronnit Bendavid-Val, director of horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, told me. “I can’t think of anything that they don’t lay, such as cloth, metal, furniture, the sides of buildings, and of course wood.” There are no natural predators chasing them, and no organic pesticides to stop their activities. So, “If you find it, crush it,” said Bendervid Val, “that’s the message.”
Concerned about the affinity of lantern flies for grapes and all the dangers posed to Finger Lakes and Long Island vineyards, the New York State Department of Agriculture calls for reconnaissance beyond combat. When you find a specimen, collect it, put it in a bag, freeze it, and “put it in a jar with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer” to use it for purposes other than using extra purel. Purchased in the last 18 months, the goal of death is achieved, but not completely clear. According to the website, after the lantern fly is victimized, point out “address and zip code, intersecting roads, landmarks, or GPS coordinates” and notify the agency of additional details regarding sightings. It has become.
You may follow these instructions to hunt down this creature, shatter it, and feel like a warrior, but you are still forced to recognize the gift of nature to the insect metaphor. The spotted lanternfly headed for New York City in the midst of a pandemic, first arriving at Staten Island and chasing the cohabitants of our ecosystem.Among them the chief turned out to be Ailanthus altissima, Also known as the Tree of Heaven, it is also known as the tree at the heart of the 1943 novel “Trees Growing in Brooklyn.” It is aggressive in itself and a symbol of the city’s resilience, “it’s a boarding plot, growing from a pile of neglected garbage,” writes author Betty Smith. “It was the only tree that grew from cement.”
The presence of lantern flies reminds us that our commitment to sustainability is too often inconsistent with aesthetic values. The city last faced this kind of threat about 15 years ago when the Asian long-horned beetle arrived in wooden packaging. Half of New York’s trees are vulnerable to it, and the invasion has resulted in massive deforestation. The beetle, first witnessed in Brooklyn in 1996, was not completely eradicated from the city until 23 years later.
These elimination efforts were strategic and did not rely on an army of civil mercenaries who were more likely to trample beetles because they were uglier than violating something dazzling, such as a spotted lantern fly. “People are pandemic and feed stray cats,” said urban ecologist Mariel Anzerone. “In the meantime, stray cats are slaughtering songbirds, but people understand what domesticated pets are and they feel sorry for them,” she said. “The majority of humans are ecologically illiterate.”
For Anzeroone, the founder of NYC Wildflower Week, which introduces about 800 plants native to New York City, all of the sudden interest in spotted lanternflies is dazzling to manage our ecosystem. Another symptom of the approach is to pick out one villain when you need to think overall. “We have a wine industry in New York, so there are a lot of concerns,” she said. “As soon as the commercial dollar sign becomes involved, it gets a lot of attention, but there are many more destructive invading plants in New York City.”
Even in the midst of a climate crisis, biodiversity is not taken seriously where nature is generally considered novel. Researchers are currently working on innovative ways to permanently control spotted lanternfly populations. But when they succeed, of course, something else inevitably takes the place, and another small enemy escapes from the container ship’s original habitat. Global commerce and the pace of life make it impossible to imagine other ways.