Since being first discovered in 2014, researchers have struggled to identify a natural predator to the invasive spotted lanternfly. However, as more studies surface, researchers are discovering that several animals like to make a meal out of the pests.
Penn State University (PSU) is conducting a study calling for the public’s help identifying potential predators of SLF. Researchers say they are using a “community science approach” to gather data on which species of birds and other predators are dining on spotted lanternfly, as well as how often.
This study is the second phase of what the PSU team began in 2019, looking at which birds were eating SLF.
According to the official Facebook page, researchers are asking the public to, “Please include the life stage of the lanternfly (see picture for help with this), the common name of the predator, the date and location of the observation, and any feeding behaviors you noticed.”
Anne Johnson, an entomology doctoral candidate at PSU, said the public has reported multiple predators.
“Chickens were our most commonly reported bird. Cardinals were a commonly reported species. Lots of people were reporting praying mantis and things like ants, wasps and spiders,” Johnson told WITF.
Johnson also said studying the behaviors of natural predators will help to determine which species can help to curb the invasive spotted lanternfly population.
Co-researcher and Penn State entomology professor Dr. Kelli Hoover says a variety of arthropods, like those known to feed on other arthropods, are finding spotted lanternfly to be a meal of choice.
“I would say there are no specific predators, but there are generalists that are making use of this abundant food source,” Dr. Hoover told WITF. “There are assassin bugs – sometimes called ambush bugs. One in particular is called the wheel bug. They have a piercing sucking beak type mouth. So, we’ve been finding wheel bug egg masses laying right next to spotted lanternfly egg masses. They hatch first and sit there and wait for the spotted lanternfly to come out of their eggs.”
The data may help with biological control of spotted lanternfly, Dr. Hoover said.
“This means we may want to encourage the growth of populations that are natural enemies [to spotted lanternfly],” Dr. Hoover said. “It’s very similar to planting pollinator gardens. There are several wildflowers that will attract ambush or assassin bugs because the bugs feed on the nectar and pollen when there’s no food source.”
If you spot a bird or bug chowing down on one, you can report it to Penn State researchers on the Birds Biting Bad Bugs Facebook page or by emailing the Dr. Hoover lab directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.
While SLF is not a typical structural pest, pest management professionals (PMPs) have reported sightings at various accounts. Have you had to deal with SLF removal this year? Drop us a line and tell us about it at email@example.com.