THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS
By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins
I’ve grown weary of living in fear of things I can’t see. Happily, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture is raising a call for help — they need our collective eyes watching for the arrival of Lycorma delicatula, commonly known as the spotted lanternfly. At least this is a foe I can spot.
This is very bad bug, it has been making a mess, both environmentally and economically, in states north of here. North Carolina experts believe the spotted lanternfly will breech our boundaries sometime this year.
The department of agriculture has response teams ready to do battle, but it doesn’t have the ability to monitor our entire state on its own.
While we are taking our socially distant walks outside, we can watch and report possible sightings. Lacing up my hiking boots, I puff with pride at the thought of my new role of citizen-scientist-slash-eco-defender. So much better than leading another video chat.
Here’s what to watch for:
This insect looks different at each stage of its life. When it hatches over the next few weeks it is small, only about 1/4” long, with a black body and white spots. Two months later it will grow to about 1/2” long, transforming to red with white spots and black legs.
Taking another two months to reach adulthood, it will be approximately 1” long, with grey wings that have spots and patterned tips. Despite its large wings, it hops more than it flies.
Regulatory Entomologist Whitney Swink stresses that the department would “rather get 1,000 false reports than have one true sighting go undetected. It’s that important.”
How did we get here? It’s a complicated story, which we will tackle over the next few months in an ongoing series.
But what we do about it is easy — if you see it, report it.
Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: firstname.lastname@example.org