Spotted Lantern Fly: A Beautifully Close View

As part of Robert Pringle’s EEB321 class assignment, I went out to find a specimen worthy of the Foldscope’s function. I was very excited to get the opportunity to utilize a Foldscope for the second time, as I had the chance to use one in Kenya with some very cool insects a couple years back. I remembered it being a little bit difficult to find a good view of a sample, but I was determined to overcome this obstacle.

After several practice attempts with random leaves, lichen, and even my own hair, I could not find a good view of any of the samples I had. The view was either too dark or the specimen I was using was too opaque to let any light through. Instead of continuing with my practice, I decided to make an attempt not the sample I really wanted to view: a spotted lantern fly. This time, instead of using my naked eye, I utilized my iPhone camera’s long exposure function to produce a stunning image of the SLF’s wing. I got very lucky and was so impressed with the results.

Seen in the image above, there is a very clear view of the individual units that make up a spotted lantern fly’s wings. This sample came from the black part of the inner wing. I found it fascinating to see that the very black pigment actually appears brown under the view of the Foldscope and the light. I also found that very uniform rectangular structure satisfying to view. It led me to wonder: do other pigmented wings look similarly to this? Are black wings actually brown under lighting and microscopic view? I wish I had taken the time to look at the other colored parts of the SLF’s wing. I guess that will be my next venture.

Getting to see this beautiful, up-close image of the SLF wing was such a fantastic accomplishment for me because I had been interested in looking more at the insect I have been so mercilessly killing over the past few months. As someone who looks for ways to appreciate the silver linings in anything, I have always appreciated the beauty of the spotted lantern fly. Their image is associated with such negative thoughts in the ecological world, but there is so much more to them than just an invasive nuisance. They are exquisite creatures with exquisite and detailed qualities.

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

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