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A spray bottle labelled with a null sign for a social and media intelligence blog about lanternflies.

The Online Buzz about Lanternflies

Ann-Derrick Gaillot

Jul 19, 2023

Around the world, spring and summer are when humankind gets reacquainted with the outdoors. For many of us, that also means sharing space with legions of newly-hatched bugs in all of their fluttering, jumping, and biting glory. Over the past several years, the arrival of warm weather in parts of the United States has also come with the re-emergence of spotted lanternflies which are an invasive species to North America, South Korea, and Japan — and online chatter about them. 

First spotted (pun intended) in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2014, the pretty but destructive flying bugs have now infested more than a dozen states. Their spread sparks an annual wave of conversation, both online and off, about what these bugs are and why everyday people should join the effort to eradicate them. We used our Meltwater social listening and analytics platform to take a look at spotted lanternfly conversations from April 15 through July 15, 2023. The insights we uncovered show just how much these little creatures are sparking interest in insects and awareness of invasive species.

Table of Contents

Top Locations for Lanternfly Keyword Mentions

Naturally, most U.S. spotted lanternfly keyword mentions are coming from New York and Pennsylvania, the states hit hardest, and earliest, by the infestation. New Jersey rounds out the top three followed, interestingly, by Texas, where the species was first found in the fall of 2022.

A bar chart showing the states with the most mentions of spotted lanternfly keywords. New York is at the top of the list with 1.9K mentions.

When we look at top locations by city, New York City and Pittsburgh are the top places for spotted lanternfly mentions. Meanwhile, outside of the United States, Canada has the second-highest volume of spotted lanternfly keyword mentions. Though, at about 450 mentions, those from Canada make up a very small proportion of the overall spotted lanternfly conversation. 

Most Engaging Content about Lanternflies

Reddit is one of the top sites for engagement with content about spotted lanternflies. 

Over on Reddit, the most engaged post features a video showing one user’s homemade, non-toxic lanternfly trap. So far, the post has garnered 4,400 upvotes and 150 comments full of people praising the effective DIY contraption. 

“What is”

Let’s take a moment to take a closer look at Reddit, which is the top social media platform for users asking for more information about mysterious bugs that turn out to be spotted lanternflies. Over the past three months, there has been an average of three mentions each day on Reddit of lanternflies with the phrases "What is this", "What's this", or "know what this is".

The post that drew the most engagement is called “Black/white/red all over found in queens New York. What is this beauty?” It generated 1,900 upvotes and more than 500 comments, with the highest-rated response being: “Spotted lanternfly. Invasive. Kill them all.” Unsurprisingly, the top Reddit page in the “What is this” lanternfly conversation is r/whatisthisbug. For lanternfly mentions overall, r/pittsburgh comes out on top.

A list of the top spotted lanternfly subreddits. r/Pittsburgh is number one with 1.02K mentions.

Highest Social Echo

The content that had the highest Social Echo (meaning it was posted, shared, and interacted with most on social media) was a link from the positive news outlet Upworthy. Its article about Bobbi Wilson winning the Sustainability Award from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions racked up a Social Echo of nearly 10,000 engagements on Facebook. Wilson originally drew media attention in the fall of 2022 after a neighbor called the police on the Black 9-year-old for spraying DIY, non-toxic insecticide on lanternflies in her neighborhood in an instance of racial profiling.

Top Twitter Authors and Hashtags

On Twitter, the top authors of this summer’s lanternfly conversations are all news outlets that have reported on the spread and methods to combat it. The New York Times’ Tweet promoting its article about lanternflies was viewed more than 213,000 times.

A list of the top lanternfly Twitter authors. The New York Times is at the top of the list with one Tweet followed by Mashable with six Tweets.

Twitter users who want to get in on the conversation should use #spottedlanternfly, the most-used related hashtag on the platform. Though the most retweeted lanternfly Tweet, featuring a custom illustration about killing lanternflies, didn’t include any hashtags at all. 

Stomp vs Spray vs Stick

Once people learn about lanternflies and the harm they cause as an invasive species, the natural next question is, “Well, how do we kill them?” There are generally three options: stomping (also known as squishing, squashing, or stepping on) them, spraying them with insecticide, or capturing and killing them with sticky traps. But which option is most popular? 

A ring chart showing that "stomp" has a 95.9% share of voice, compared to 2.6% for spray and 1.5% for stick.

Our analysis comparing mentions of lanternfly keywords along with those related to each action revealed that stomping is overwhelmingly the most talked about way of killing lanternflies.

Top Entomology Influencers

This summer’s spotted lanternfly conversations point to an audience of internet users who are interested in learning more about bugs and earth-friendly ways to fight invasive species. Luckily, there is an entire community of bug enthusiasts across social media who are sharing their love of entomology with others. (Here’s a warning for the squeamish: The following pages feature images and videos of creepy crawlers.) They include:

Despite the efforts of amateur bug stompers and governmental agencies, the spotted lanternfly is still spreading across the United States, as well as South Korea and Japan, with many other countries at high risk of infestation. As this problem grows, we’ll likely see conversations about it growing across even more locations. So, next summer, prepare for even more #spottedlanternfly sightings online and, more critically, in your neighborhood.


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