Unscreened Lanternfly tape is popping all over the Borough, but at what cost?

Editor’s note: There are some potentially disturbing images in this post.

Last week, West Chester resident Julie Morse, stood up at the Borough Council Public Works committee meeting with a request. 

“My wish is that authorities would discontinue advising the use of lanternfly tape because there are too many people who aren’t using it properly, and wildlife is suffering and dying because of it,” Julie, a Horticultural Grounds Manager, said in an email.

The problem with lanternfly tape Julie explained is it’s not just catching lanternflies. Many birds, including owls and hawks, bees and other beneficial insects drawn to the insects on the tape are also getting caught in the adhesive. Once a bird is caught, chances of survival are minimal. Julie recently found and cut down a bird caught on a neighbor’s unscreened taped tree, but it later perished after being taken to a wildlife center. (By the way, this is the correct course of the action should you find a bird or other wildlife stuck in the tape. Cut the animal from the tape – don’t try to remove it yourself – and take it to a wildlife center.)

“This is a case of animal cruelty, and no one is being held accountable for it.”

Julie Morse, Horticultural Grounds Manager
Examples of birds caught in tape as brought to a wildlife center. Simply screening the tape could save many bird lives.

While Julie won’t get her wish of an outright ban of the tape in the Borough, you will soon be able to find more information about best practices on the Borough website. You can also follow these guidelines from PennState Extension which recommends “against the use of sticky bands unless an appropriate wildlife barrier is installed around them.”

Cover the sticky tape with a screen to limit your unintended catches.

Instead for most effective lanternfly control and minimal damage to other wildlife, PennState Extension recommends a circle trap. If you do have a sticky band trap, make sure to keep it narrow and please, please, please cover it with a mesh netting, such as a screen. This will limit bycatch and hopefully keep you from having to race to a wildlife sanctuary with an injured bird in your car.

Note: While, yes, lanternflies are at their most annoying right now, the best time to trap and kill them is actually right after they hatch in the spring (April-June). 

Plus, get to know West Chester’s Tree Team. (Yes, we have a group a residents keeping an eye on those trees.)

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