Sticky traps for spotted lanternflies are killing other harmless animals

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — You’ve probably noticed a few of those sticky traps wrapped around trees in suburban regions. They’re intended to catch and kill invasive spotted lanternflies, but the viscous adhesives are becoming a hazard for other wildlife. 

According to the Norristown-based Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center, woodpeckers, bats and squirrels are getting stuck to the tape, and most end up maimed or dead.

“It’s absolutely epidemic,” said Michele Wellard, assistant director of the center. “It started three years ago when this tape first went on the market, but now it’s just unbelievable. Every other call I’m getting is about an animal on spotted lanternfly tape.”

Wellard said there are safer options that won’t harm other critters.

“A Shop-Vac with Dawn dish detergent and water in the reservoir would ensure (lanternflies) are killed,” she advised, essentially sucking the bugs off the tree. “Some insecticidal soap, neem oil.”

The center cares for at least five to 10 birds a day that are injured from the tape — and those are just the ones that people bring in.

Wellard said many of the animals don’t survive because the stress alone can kill them. Some people try to rescue the trapped birds with oil, but oil actually compromises a bird’s feathers, and it usually dies the next day. 

If you’re gung-ho on using the sticky tape, Wellard said buy some hardware cloth — a heavy wire mesh, similar to chicken wire — and wrap it around the tape. That way, only the insects will be able to reach the tape.

If you do find a bird or another animal stuck to the trap, Wellard said to cut the board or tape off of the tree where the bird is attached, place a paper towel over any tacky pieces stuck to the bird, then put the bird in a box and cover it with a lid. Darkness will help calm it down. 

Then she said, call a wildlife center or rehabilitator and deliver the bird to the experts.