Harleysville teen's spotted lanternfly trap lands her a spot at national science competition

HARLEYSVILLE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A couple middle school students from the Philadelphia suburbs are among 30 teens selected to present in a national science competition. One of those projects tackles the obnoxious spotted lanternfly. 

So she started watching the bugs and noticed something. 

“They want to go up and not down. Once I discovered that I was like, ‘Oh wait, I’ll create a little barrier for them,'" she said. 

“One day, I was out there and I had put tinfoil around the tree and I accidentally made a little hole where the clothespin was connecting the two ends and it got through, and I’m like, ‘Ugh, it got through.’ And then I was like, ‘Wait, it got through!’ And that was basically where I got the idea," the 14-year-old said. 

That idea is the tinfoil barrier around the tree with a tunnel that leads the lanternfly into netting, where Rachel said they tend to die within 24 hours. She said her research shows this trap catches 103 percent more lanternflies than the sticky tape and 94 percent fewer other insects.

She said this was a true research project because we don’t know much about the spotted lanternfly, so she had to observe rather than just Google.

After wins at the county level and at Drexel’s Del Val Science Fair, she’s one of just 30 students from across the country who will present at the Broadcom MASTERS Competition in Washington, D.C. next month.

She's applied for a patent, but acknowledges there’s a lot that needs to be done before it could be marketed. But, Bergey said, if it helps people catch and kill spotted lanternflies and save trees, it’s all worth it.

Alaina Gassler from West Grove, Chester County designed a system to help reduce blind spots on cars and is also among the 30 finalists.