Wingin’ It

Princeton University has transformed into a lanternfly graveyard. A few weeks ago, I turned the basement of McCosh Hall into a cadaver lab.

A pair of unsuspecting lanternflies enjoying their last few waking moments on the back of Frist Campus Center back in October.

Excited to use a Foldscope for the first time, I searched campus for a specimen that would allow enough light to filter through so that I could make a clear observation. After scouring campus, I found a collection of dead spotted lanternflies (Lycorma delicatula) near one of their favorite trees outside of the student center (RIP, right door maple). I removed one of the infamous spotted wings and headed back to McCosh.

After struggling to mount the Foldscope to my iPhone, I finally took some halfway decent photos of the wing. (If the tech wizards are listening, please find a way to take pictures through this without making me think my camera is going to fly away!)

My images were somewhat blurry, but still provide useful material for scientific discovery. Ecology can’t require perfection.

I observed what I perceived to be “folds” in the wing material, but I also wonder if these are elements of some sort of underlying “skeleton” that supports the structure of the organ. Of course, the form may be a fold with the function of providing support. I assume those with more insect experience than I are probably aware of the physiological design of these invaders.

I look forward to seeing and utilizing the innovations that will protect our ecosystem from the harmful effects of these creatures (especially in my southern hometown, where they have yet to make an appearance).

A bit of one of the insect’s infamous spots is visible in this image.

I conducted this project as part of Professor Pringle’s EEB321 class at Princeton University.

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