PHS students build traps to target lantern flies

PHS science scholars build traps to target invasive lantern flies
Posted on 11/01/2022
This is the image for the news article titled PHS science scholars build traps to target invasive lantern fliesA group of science scholars at Piscataway High School are putting their skills to the test in a real-world battle that everyone can relate to: spotted lantern flies.

Students in the Science National Honor Society (SNHS) have designed and built traps to target the destructive invasive species. They hung a half-dozen of the traps on some of the lantern flies’ favorite trees around PHS in an attempt to put a dent in their growing numbers.

“We were just trying to think of ways we can do community service this year, because we were a mostly academic organization last year,” said SNHS Treasurer Arya Patel, a senior. “So we were looking for a way to use science to solve a real pressing issue right now.”

CBS NY: PHS students create traps targeting invasive spotted lantern flies

The students, under the guidance of advisor Dr. Janet Mrotek, sought assistance from an outside expert to get started. Danielle Puglisi, an instructional coach from Branchburg Public Schools, is involved in a design challenge through Rutgers University aimed at the lantern fly problem. She visited PHS to give students direction and some of the materials they would need to build their traps.

students handing lantern fly traps

She also taught them about the bugs themselves, including how they lay their eggs, their favorite trees, and how destructive they can be to trees and crops.

“We simply saw the lantern-fly overpopulation as a nuisance,” said Secretary Sarathy Selvam, a junior. “But when analyzing the situation a little more, we discovered that the devastation to agriculture was far more profound than we ever imagined.”

The students used materials including plastic mesh, twine, wire, tape, one-gallon jugs, Ziploc bags, and glue to come up with creative designs for their traps. They used no pesticides or other chemicals.

“I felt like I saw many students open up about what they thought was right, because we had many designs,” said SNHS President Ananya Guntur, a senior. “The designs are different but still try to accomplish the same goal. I think it shows you can be different but still succeed. Even if we don’t catch bugs, it encouraged students to participate in the effort.”

students creating lantern fly traps

Four of the SNHS officers went out with Mrotek on Friday, Oct. 28, to hang the traps near PHS. They had already pinpointed six trees known as Trees of Heaven, one of the lantern flies’ favorite hangouts. When the students arrived, the bugs proved them right. There were hundreds of them on the first tree.

The students used tacks and twine to attach the traps. The concept is simple: The bugs are known to crawl up the trees, so the mesh is placed in a way that directs them into the water jugs, where they become trapped.

The results remain to be seen, but Mrotek said this is just the first attempt for the students, and learning the design process is the important part. Lantern fly season ends around December, so students will see how their designs work, make modifications, and continue their efforts in the spring.

“We want to hang them for about a month and see how many we actually catch,” she said.

students hanging lantern fly traps

Patel said the project can be a success whether they catch a lot of bugs or just a few.

“There was definitely a lot of trial and error involved,” he said, “but it’s a fulfilling experience to just put yourself out there to try to get something done. Even if they do catch a lot of bugs that’s not going to end the problem.

“But it just shows what a small club at a high school is able to accomplish.”