By Erin Brody, News Editor
Do you hear that? That sound buzzing in the air? And what was that red and brown thing jumping in between the plants? Could it be? It is... The spotted lanternfly invasion has officially made its way to the Saint Vincent College (SVC) campus.
In recent months, the spotted lanternflies have gained popularity on social media, particularly among those living in the eastern United States. As the invasion slowly travels to the Midwest and West, more people are stomping their way through the outdoors as a means to limit the spread of the species. While the invasion is still in the early stages, spotted lanternflies have been around since 2014 when they were first spotted in Berks County, PA, likely making their way here through transportation along waterways.
Ever since the spotted lanternflies came into the Pittsburgh area, many rumors about their destructive nature and their purpose have been spread throughout the region. In response, Assistant Professor of Biology and entomologist, Dr. Michelle Duennes, established the Spotted Lanternfly Invasion Archive to better understand and document the historical invasion of these insects.
The Invasion Archive came about when former student Clare Mulcahy (c’ 2023) joined Duennes’ senior research course. During this time, Mulcahy and Dr. Duennes thought up ideas of insects that would be easy to obtain on the Saint Vincent campus.
“I had been reading about spotted lanternflies, and I knew they were on their way here and already in Pittsburgh,” said Duennes. “But the time that Clare and I had to collect samples was limited.”
The two decided to make the project into a citizen science project, meaning anyone who wanted to participate could collect and send samples to Mulcahy and Duennes. Upon seeing the spotted lantern flies, many were curious how they could prevent the spreading of the species, and Mulcahy’s project gave them the chance to do just that. An estimated 23 people collected over 100 samples for the project in the fall of 2022, and interest is still high.
“Clare’s project morphed from finding a species for her to study into something I might continue after she graduates,” said Duennes. “Her project went really well, and I thought, ‘Let’s turn this into a long-term monitoring project.’”
The long-term project became the Spotted Lanternfly Invasion Archive. Today, the Archive is still in the works through sample collection, which will play a huge role in the finished product. According to Duennes Lab — a website that features all the research projects in
SVC’s Biology Department — the college will house all the collected samples for scientists to study DNA and how a spotted lanternfly’s body has changed throughout the years.
“It’s kind of like a historical archive but with dead bugs instead of files,” said Duennes.
The best part about this project is that anyone can send in samples to help in research. The Spotted Lanternfly Invasion Archive will feature yearly samples from Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties, and while the species has been around for over a year. Duennes emphasized the importance of sending in samples.
“Anybody who has just a few [spotted lanternflies] in their yard can help. We can literally catalog them at the very beginning of the invasion of Westmoreland County,” said Duennes. “We want to build this preserved repository of insects that represents their invasion with the ultimate goal of using these insects decades from now to see how they’ve adapted and evolved over time in this new habitat.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the Spotted Lanternfly Invasion Archive or sending in samples, to go https://maduennes.wordpress.com/spotted-lanternfly/. However, if you do not plan on participating, Dr. Duennes advises to kill any spotted lanternflies you may see and suggests using this trap that Penn State University created: https://extension.psu.edu/how-to-build-a-spotted-lanternfly-circle-trap.