Sightings of the spotted lanternfly, an invasive leafhopper that was first discovered in the United States in 2014, have increased over the past two days, according to borough officials in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
According to the Department of Agriculture, spotted lanterns are a serious invasive pest with a healthy appetite for plants and can be a significant nuisance.
The Department of Agriculture recommends on its website that if you see a mottled lantern you should help it out by crushing it.
Belmar’s chief lifeguard Harry Harsin said: ‘Just yesterday we were inundated with [lantern flies], thousands of them all over the beach, affecting customers. People were saying they were also in the water, flying in their hair and everything.
Chief Harsin said while the beaches were better from Wednesday, Tuesday’s infestation was “pretty intense”.
He added that the borough has contacted the Department of Environmental Protection, but they are still awaiting official protocol to promote the destruction of invasive insects.
However, the chief said “people kept running them over and killing them… There’s a whole infestation there on the beach.”
“I haven’t seen anything like this in a long time,” he said.
Spring Lake Beach manager Lauren Gargiullo also reported seeing lanterns on Tuesday.
She said on Wednesday: “We are definitely seeing less than what we have seen [on Tuesday]. But as for encouraging people to kill them, we actually check with the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] to see what is the best way to handle them.
Brick Township Recreation Director Daniel Santaniello said: ‘There was a westerly wind yesterday [Tuesday] and the rescuers thought he was bringing black flies, but it was more like lantern flies.
There were over 200 and they must have killed 100. He said they are not pests like black flies, but a nuisance. It was “protocol” with the health department for the beach patrol to handle the situation, he said.
Mr Santaniello believes the southerly wind helped the flies move elsewhere as only two were spotted on the beach on Wednesday.
Avon Mayor Ed Bonanno said there have also been sightings of lanterns at Avon beaches.
Spring Lake Heights resident Candace Clausell encountered and killed at least 200 Lanterns while walking the Spring Lake and Belmar parkways on Tuesday.