Birds dying in glue traps meant to kill invasive spotted lanternflies in NJ, group says

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Spotted lanternflies are invasive, hungry bugs that officials have called on the public to destroy because they can damage dozens of important plant species.

However, one method to catch and kill them, glue tape traps, has proved deadly for one of the pest’s potential predators: birds, according to a wild bird rehabilitation center in New Jersey.

“The number of birds tragically caught in glue tape traps set out for Spotted Lanternfly remediation grows daily,” The Raptor Trust, based in Millington, wrote in an Aug. 2 Facebook post.

In 2022, the group has recorded 61 birds that have been caught in glue tape traps meant for spotted lanternflies, and 23 have died as of Aug. 3, Christopher D. Soucy, the executive director of The Raptor Trust, told McClatchy News in a statement.

Glue trap victims include cardinals, sparrows, robins and nuthatches, and “those lucky enough not to die of heat and dehydration are brought to (The Raptor Trust) in bad shape,” the group wrote in a July 19 Facebook post.

Spotted lanternflies — which consume trees, including fruit trees, and crops such as beer hops — have been found in at least 11 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In this Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, photo, spotted lanternflies gather on a tree in Kutztown, Pa.
In this Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, photo, spotted lanternflies gather on a tree in Kutztown, Pa.

To stop birds from becoming injured or dying from glue traps, The Raptor Trust is advising the public to use an alternative method.

The circle trap

“There are safe, non-glue alternatives to this trap such as the mesh ‘circle trap,’” Soucy told McClatchy News.

The circle trap is being used in Pennsylvania and is a “very effective” method, according to Penn State.

“This new style trap is made of plastic-coated insect screening and does not use any sticky material at all. It is basically a tunnel that SLFs walk into,” Penn State reported. “When they move upward in the trap, they end up in a dead-end collection container where they die.”

While this trap can be purchased commercially, Penn State has instructed people how to build their own here.

However, if some still want to use glue tape traps, there is a safer way to do so to prevent birds and other creatures from getting caught.

The Raptor Trust advises wrapping small mesh wire over the tape at least an inch away and suggests using “half inch ‘hardware cloth.’”

“The wire mesh needs to be small enough to keep birds out, but the Lanternflies can still get in.”

Of the 61 birds that The Raptor Trust has helped rehabilitate after getting stuck in glue traps, 15 have been released this year, Soucy said. Meanwhile, 23 are still being rehabilitated.

One nuthatch that became trapped in tape had “nearly ALL of its wing and tail feathers stuck,” the center said. In another case, an entire family of birds became stuck in the tape.

Four birds are seen stuck together in a glue tape trap.
Four birds are seen stuck together in a glue tape trap.

If you find a bird stuck in a glue trap, the center advises bringing it to a nearby wildlife rehabilitator in a box and to put paper towels around the rest of the glue, according to its July 19 post.

“Do not attempt to remove it yourself, as it can cause further damage.”

Other creatures that have been caught in glue traps include snakes and mice, according to The Raptor Trust.

More on the spotted lanternfly

Spotted lanternflies are native to China and were first discovered in the U.S. in 2014 in Pennsylvania, according to the USDA.

They have different life stages and appear physically different during each.

In the beginning, they are black, small and decorated with small white spots before they grow slightly larger and turn red with black stripes and white spots, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. This is considered the “nymph” phase.

A spotted lanternfly nymph climbs the leg of Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Hughes during a rally to raise the state minimum wage at Sharon Baptist Church, Friday, July 9, 2021, in Philadelphia.
A spotted lanternfly nymph climbs the leg of Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Hughes during a rally to raise the state minimum wage at Sharon Baptist Church, Friday, July 9, 2021, in Philadelphia.

During the bug’s adult phase, from July until December, spotted lanternflies grow larger and develop wings. When the wings are closed, they are gray with black spots. However, when the wings open, they are partially colored bright red.

This Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, photo shows a spotted lanternfly at a vineyard in Kutztown, Pa.
This Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, photo shows a spotted lanternfly at a vineyard in Kutztown, Pa.

Millington is roughly 40 miles north of Trenton.

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