UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Like moths to a flame, spotted lanternflies are visually drawn toward and seemingly captivated by vertical objects such as utility poles, a behavior that could be valuable in predicting where the pests might be heading, according to entomologists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
Research from the laboratory of Tom Baker, recently published in the Journal of Insect Behavior, is laying the foundation for future strategies to monitor and possibly trap the invasive insect from Asia, which first was found in North America in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014. The planthopper now is confirmed in 34 Pennsylvania counties and several surrounding states.
These findings show that telephone poles attract flight-dispersing spotted lanternflies, which are visually drawn to turn and land on the poles when they are less than about 10 feet away. They remain on the pole for many minutes, even hours, while crawling up toward the top to try to take flight again.
However, a large proportion of those launching themselves from the pole are drawn back to the pole, which serves as a sort of “visual magnet” from which the insects cannot escape for a while. The pole thus attracts and retains a large proportion of the lanternflies that are drawn to it.