On a weekend this afternoon recently, Damian Biollo went to Hudson Yards with his wife to meet with a drawing group that typically meets in Central Park, where the mysteries of nature reveal themselves more reliably. On this day, a mall office park would doubtfully provide the inspiration, but not long after they arrived, they noticed something out of context and quite beautiful — a small creature with two pairs of wings, the front set a light gray elegantly dotted with black and the back smaller and accented in bright red. It had been located near an entrance to the High Line.
Someone without Mr. After two attempts, he managed to crush it.
A software engineer who follows a lot of natural scientists online identified Mr. Biollo correctly what he saw as a spotted lantern (Lycorma delicatula), an invasive pest from Asia that arrived in the United States seven years ago and to New York last year, and immediately landed on the most wanted list of local environmentalists who have brought a general Patton-ish energy to the project of removing it.
“I spent 10 minutes stomping around looking for them and I killed eight,” he told me. That day, in a restricted area around 34th Street toward 11th Avenue, they were everywhere. In two hours, he killed 76-40 of them in a matter of minutes. “I honestly felt like I was in a twisted video game,” he said. “I killed eight and I thought I might be able to reach a high score of 10.”
Sir. Biollo understood that lantern is a problem for many reasons, but mostly because it zealously feeds on the sap of more than 70 plant species, leaving them susceptible to disease and destruction from other natural antagonists and threatening to put the fight against the climate back low. In Pennsylvania, the issue is taken so seriously that the state issued a Spotted Lanternfly Order of Quarantine and Treatment, which imposes fines and even potential criminal sanctions on anyone who deliberately moves the bug, at any stage of its life, from one kind of location to another. via “recreational vehicles, tractors, lawn mowers, barbecues” as well as “tarpaulins, mobile homes, tiles, stones, deck boards” or “fire pits”.
The insects jump and fly only short distances, but they move easily and multiply manically. “They can take a ride on a baseball cap in the back of your car,” Ronnit Bendavid-Val, director of horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, told me. “I can not think of anything they do not lay their eggs on – cloth, metal, furniture, sides of buildings and of course trees.” There are no natural predators going after them, no organic pesticides to shut down their operations, so “if you see one,” squeeze it, “said Mrs. Bendavid-Val,” that’s the message. “
New York State’s Department of Agriculture, concerned about the lantern fly’s affinity for grapes and all the consequent danger to vineyards in the Finger Lakes and on Long Island, would ask you to go beyond combat and perform reconnaissance. It would like you to collect a sample when you come across one, put it in a bag and freeze it “or put it in a jar of liquor or rubbing alcohol” whose purpose is other than to use the extra Purell you have purchased over the last 18 months is not entirely clear, although the goal – death – will be reached. Once you have made the lantern aircraft your victim, you are supposed to write to the agency with additional information about your location, pointing out “street name and zip code, crossing roads, landmarks or GPS coordinates” according to the website.
You may abide by these directives, chase this creature, pulverize it, and feel like a warrior, yet you would be forced to recognize the insect’s natural gift of metaphor. The spotted lantern came to New York City in the middle of a pandemic and first arrived in Staten Island and went after our organic roommates. Chief among them turns out to be Ailanthus altissima, otherwise known as the Tree of Heaven, otherwise known as the tree in the middle of the novel “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” from 1943. Although aggressive and a symbol of the city’s resilience, “it grew in bound parts and out of neglected trash cans,” the author wrote Betty Smith. “It was the only wood that grew out of cement.”
The presence of the Bird of Light brings us yet another reminder that our commitments to sustainability are all too often in conflict with our aesthetic values. The last time the city faced a threat of this kind was about 15 years ago, when the Asian Longhorned beetle made its inroads after entering the country in wooden packaging. Half of the trees in New York were vulnerable to it, and the invasion resulted in a huge deforestation. First seen in Brooklyn in 1996, the beetle was not completely eradicated from the city until 23 years later.
These elimination efforts were strategic and less dependent on an army of civilian mercenaries who might be more likely to stomp the beetle out because it was ugly than they would offend something as dazzling in its appearance as the spotted lantern. “People are feeding feral cats in the pandemic,” pointed out urban ecologist Marielle Anzelone. Meanwhile, feral cats slaughter birds of prey. But people understand what domestic animals are and they feel sorry for them, ”she said. “The majority of people are not ecologically readable.”
For Mrs. Anzelone, the founder of NYC Flower Week, which shows the approximately 800 plants native to New York City, the sudden interest in the spotted lantern is simply another indication of our flashy approach to managing our ecosystem, appointing a villain when we should think holistically. “Because we have a wine industry in the state of New York, there is a lot of concern,” she said. “As soon as there is a commercial dollar sign, there is attention. But there are many invasive plants in New York City that are more destructive. ”
Even in the midst of the climate crisis, biodiversity is not taken seriously in a place where nature is generally considered a novelty. Researchers are currently working on innovative methods to permanently control the spotted lantern aircraft population. But once they succeed, of course, will inevitably take somewhere else, another small enemy escapes from its original habitat on a container ship. The speed of global trade and life makes it impossible to imagine otherwise.