Spotted lanternflies, a new invasive species, poses threat to Bloomington businesses and agriculture

Spotted lanternflies, a new invasive species with red wings and black spots, will arrive in Bloomington in the coming years, local business owners and environmental experts say. Native to southeast Asia, the insects are not directly harmful to humans, but they may hurt agriculture and businesses since they do not yet have a natural predator in the U.S. 

Jim Bulter, who co-owns Butler Winery with his wife, said the lanternflies will reach Bloomington in one to two years. He fears the damage they may cause his business. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spotted lanternflies feed on crops. Butler said the insects will specifically affect avocado and almond production in California, which will do harm to small producers the most. Farmers may have to spend more money getting producers from Europe due to the shortage of supplies in the vicinity. This could lead to shortages or increased prices for these products. 

IU biology professor Armin Moczek said spotted lanternflies damage plants by poking holes in their vascular systems, which plants use to deliver water and nutrients to the rest of their body. “It’s a straw,” he said. “What happens if you poke a hole in it? You can’t use it.” 

Even though they are not harmful to humans, they reproduce in large numbers due to a lack of natural predators. However, some of their wings have been found without the body, which has led experts to think that birds, in particular, leave the wings behind.  

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