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Are spotted lanternflies safe for pets to eat?

It's known that the invasive species is harmful to plants and trees, but are pets who eat the flies at risk as well? The evidence is inconclusive.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Editor's note: The above video is from Oct. 17, 2021. 

Spotted Lanternflies, the invasive planthopper first found in Pennsylvania in 2014, have now become a common pest around Central Pa. 

Unfortunately, adult lanternfly season has just begun, starting their lifecycle in July and continuing until December. 

It's well-known that the bugs are dangerous to plant life. According to Penn State Extension, they feed on over 70 plants, including forestry and agriculture crops. causing lasting damage to vineyards, ornamental nurseries, and backyards. 

However, studies are still emerging on whether the bugs are dangerous for pets to eat. 

According to Penn State Extension, currently, no known toxins have been found in spotted lanternflies to date. 

However, social media posts have gone viral warning that the flies are toxic, dead or alive, to dogs.

One particular post reads: Be aware that spotted lanternflies are toxic to dogs. Ingested, they can cause seizures. Stepped on, they can cause dog's pads to blister. It doesn't matter if the spotted lanternflies are dead or alive, they are still toxic. I was surprised to learn this evening there isn't a consensus in the U.S. on their danger to our dogs, because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which I've been working with for over 20 years, they have been considered poisonous. Be VERY careful with your dogs if you have them in your area, as we in PA do now!!! Keep your dogs away from them! Let's not have OUR dogs be in the statistics that prove the spotted lanternflies' dangers!!!

According to The Cornell Cooperative Extension in Seneca County, Ohio, there is no evidence that the insects have caused seizures in pets or blisters on their paws. Veterinarians, however, have noted that pet owners have reported upset stomachs, drooling, and loss of appetite in pets that ate the insect.  

There is some emerging research supporting that the flies could potentially become toxic to pets in time. 

The adult flies will feed from the Tree of Heaven plant, another invasive species that crowd native species of plants and secretes a chemical into the soil that is toxic to surrounding plants. 

Because the plant makes up the diet of some lanternflies, experts haven't completely ruled out the possibility of the insect being completely harmless to pets. A 2018 study found that spotted lanternflies can even sequester the toxic compound ailanthone, which they get from the Tree of Heaven. 

Penn State Extension recommends that pets don't eat spotted lanternflies. Even though there isn't conclusive proof of the insects being toxic, it's best to keep pets on a consistent diet and avoid the invasive species.

With the relative newness of the Spotted Lanternfly in the United States, information will likely continue to update and improve as research is conducted. Only recently have scientists found a potential natural predator to the species

One consistent way to kill the invasive bug? The good old-fashioned shoe remains on top.  

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