Teen Creates Lanternfly Zapper | God's World News

Teen Creates Lanternfly Zapper

  • 1 Selina Zhang 1
    Selina Zhang stands in front of her ArTreeficial. The device kills spotted lanternflies. (Courtesy of Selina Zhang)
  • 2 Lanternfly Getty Images 1054495206
    A spotted lanternfly in Pennsylvania (Getty Images)
  • 3 Selina Zhang 2
    Zhang hopes to use many of her devices in an ArTreeForest. They could zap more pests! (Courtesy of Selina Zhang)
  • 4 Lanternfly AP20298669060929
    Experts believe spotted lanternfly eggs entered the United States on a stone shipment in 2012. Two years later, the first infestation was found in Pennsylvania. (AP/David Boe)
  • 1 Selina Zhang 1
  • 2 Lanternfly Getty Images 1054495206
  • 3 Selina Zhang 2
  • 4 Lanternfly AP20298669060929


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With their red underwings and black polka dots, spotted lanternflies appear beautiful. But the insects are a menace. So a high school student invented an electrical zapping device that destroys the pests that literally bug plants to death.

The spotted lanternfly (SLF) hops from plant to plant. Its piercing mouth parts stab stems and leaves, sucking sap. Sometimes so many insects attack the same plant that the sheer number of holes harms the plant.

Big trouble arises from what happens next: The SLF secretes a sticky fluid called honeydew. Large amounts of honeydew can coat plants and trees. Fluid-covered leaves don’t take in enough sunlight. Fungus can grow. Stressed plants often become diseased and die.

American scientists have been dealing with SLFs since 2014 when the first U.S. infestation was noted.

In China, wasp predators keep SLF numbers down. But so far, there is no effective method for killing spotted lanternflies in the United States.

Enter Selina Zhang. She hails from New Jersey, a state besieged by SLFs. She first saw the colorful bugs as an elementary student. She thought they were pretty but later discovered their beauty was only wing-deep. She searched for a solution.

Zhang studied scientists’ research and carefully observed SLF habits. This shrewd insect warrior told Smithsonian Magazine she wanted “a better idea of who the enemy is.”

Using a patio umbrella, electronic mesh, solar panels, and AI technology, Zhang built a better bug-catcher. She called her faux tree ArTreeficial.

Zhang’s tree purposely imitates the Chinese “tree of heaven,” a favorite of SLFs. She even uses the tree’s particular scent to lure the lanternflies.

Two unrelated items inspired other aspects of ArTreeficial. Chessboard-like mesh squares run up and down the “trunk.” The solar-powered, self-cleaning zapper electrifies one section at a time. This mimics in reverse the action of a popular video game. In the game, dancers wait for electronic cues about where to step. Zhang’s mesh gets the insect to step first, then ZAP! Dance over.

Zhang uploaded her own research photos into AI. Her program allows the tree to identify an approaching insect by “sight.” The tree fries SLFs only.

Plans to improve ArTreeficial include using the scent of dead SLFs as bait. Zhang wants to use what she’s learned about AI and insects to slay other invasive species and protect native habitats. 

Smithsonian quotes Zhang as saying people should use resources wisely “to make sure that they’re here for us to enjoy, as well as generations after us.”

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. — Proverbs 13:22

Why? Big problems are sometimes solved by using ordinary materials and thinking outside the box. Look around for opportunity to use your gifts!

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