SPRING LAKE — Students from H.W. Mountz Elementary School showcased their project “Eggs Be Gone” at a presentation on the challenges of the spotted lanternfly hosted by the Spring Lake Shade Tree Committee on Wednesday, April 26.
The “Eggs Be Gone” team is made up of seven fourth-graders and one fifth-grade student who designed a scraper device to help eradicate spotted lanternfly eggs.
H.W. Mountz intervention teacher Margaret Ping said, “Because they are such an issue around here, one of the very first things that popped up is that we should do something about lanternflies. This was their focus because it was something they could attain.”
The team submitted its project in the New Jersey School Boards Association [NJSBA] STEAM Tank Challenge, which encourages students to work collaboratively to identify and develop innovative solutions to social issues, according to the NJSBA. “It’s a challenge that deals with science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics and the students are encouraged to come up with an idea,” said Ms. King. “It could be a new idea [or] improving an idea.”
The students used 3D printing, tested prototypes and followed the engineering design process to build their egg scraper device.
Along with displaying their prototype device at the presentation, students presented their research on the environmental and climate change impacts of spotted lanternflies. Their design was made of 3D printer plastic and they are currently researching the cost of recycled printer plastic in aims to reduce waste.
The project also encompasses a technological aspect, as the team worked on an app for customers to buy their product once it is ready for sale. They built a website that tells the public about the damage that lanternflies can cause and the benefit of their scrapers.
The team is implementing feedback as they refine their designs in hopes of moving forward in the competition.
One suggestion they received was to create a scannable QR code to connect users to their website, which the team is working on now, said one student during the presentation.
Following the Mountz students’ presentation, Paul J. Kurtz, an entomologist and expert on invasive species at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, presented “SLF [Spotted lanternfly] in NJ: Current Strategies and Control Options.”
Mr. Kurtz has supervised numerous state-wide efforts such as the spotted lanternfly program, Asian longhorned beetle effort, forest pest outreach and survey and plum pox virus program.
Members of the public learned about the origination of the bugs, what states they are currently present in and their increasing threat to New Jersey. Mr. Kurtz presented data from his website that the population of lanternflies increased from 54,000 in 2021 to 112,000 in 2022. He informed the audience on a prime cause of the problem.
“When you think of New Jersey, what do we have that most states don’t? Ports. Lots of ports. Airports, seaports, and a good railway system,” said Mr. Kurtz.
Many in the audience questioned how to identify spotted lanternflies, especially in different stages of life.
“One of the important things to look at is the difference between the female and male,” said Mr. Kurtz. “If they are larger, they are more than likely a female and we always encourage you to try to get those ones because they are going to make more eggs later on.”
Along with differences in age and gender, Mr. Kurtz pointed out the different trees and wildlife that host spotted lanternflies.
Key New Jersey hosts include tree of heaven, red maple, river birch, willow, redbud, sycamore and Japanese styrax.
The presentation concluded with the effects of the flies and the real threat they hold: causing ecological damage to forests, economic damage and nuisance damage to homeowners, according to Mr. Kurtz.
“Who wants to be pressure washing their decks every few weeks? Or anything outside, really. Cars, boats, the side of your house. I’ve seen everything under the sun,” said Mr. Kurtz.
Other specific questions the audience raised were about the most effective store-bought pesticides, methods to exterminate flies infiltrating resident’s backyard trees and projections for next year’s population.
“What we say is ‘join the battle, beat the bug.’ We enlist the public’s help because very little does help,” said Mr. Kurtz.
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