Adult Spotted Lanternflies: Frozen in Time

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

In the beginning of the fall semester, adult spotted lanternflies were spotted everywhere around Princeton’s campus. We were interested in their population because they are invasive species whose abundance has only recently infested the area this year. Now as the seasons are changing from fall to winter, their prevalence has fallen. This, however, does not mean that spotted lanternflies will not emerge again in the spring. One can spot their eggs in the crevices of buildings. It will be interesting to see how these eggs will develop through their instar phases in this environment.

It is interesting to see the frozen adult spotted lanternflies on trees or in the grass. Most of them are kept in tact and can be collected. During the semester, I was interested in the bright red coloration on their wings. It definitely stood out against the gray backdrop of buildings and concrete or the brown trunks of trees. I collected one SLF from the ground and was able to place its inner red wing on the Foldscope. Through the Foldscope, I was able to see the very red pigmented sections and surprisingly sections of tan which are not seen through the naked eye. I was also interested to see tiny fibrous structures that comprise the wing.

Being able to see the wing in a microscopic scale, allows me to pose very different questions. For example, I am interested in the specific gene regulation that is involved in having such precise color patterns in the wings. What genes are involved and how is this similar to other insects with such colorful patterns? What is the advantage of having such colorful and bright inner wings?

Spotted Lanternfly wing through the Foldscope.

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