Goat Hill Overlook is located on Coon Path in Lambertville.
It is getting colder faster than I had expected. Perhaps it’s the rush of autumn where it seems that every living creature is frantically trying to prepare for the winter. This time of year always makes me a little anxious because there is always so much to do – and the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting colder. There have been some nights recently that have dipped below freezing, and it is so startlingly cold when I open the door to go feed my chickens that I have to turn around and put on a few extra layers before attempting the walk outside. There had still been some leaves left on the trees the night before this week’s blog hike, but temperature at my home was in the low 20’s from the arctic blast that came through, and all the trees seemed to have dropped their remaining leaves overnight in protest. I met up with two of my college roommates to go on a mid-morning hike before heading down to New Hope for lunch. It is always so enjoyable to go hiking with others, because we each bring our own experiences and knowledge to the hike, and I just love chit-chatting and exchanging knowledge.I find this time of year really special, because many things that were hidden with the cover of the tree canopy are exposed. Bird and squirrel nests are suddenly visible, fruits and nuts and, of course, the bright blue sky with the dancing branches criss-crossing the sky. I have been to this trail many times, but somehow missed this large Sumac, Rhus spp., right near the parking lot. I think this is probably Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina, but without getting a closer look at the stems I can’t be sure. A woolly bear caterpillar Pyrrharctia isabella. This is the larval stage of the Isabella tiger moth. Honestly, this is one of the few times that I think the larval stage is actually cuter than the adult stage. There is a lot of folklore around the colors on the woolly bear. It was said that if the black segments were larger than the brown segments it would be a harsh winter, and if the orange segment was larger it would be a mild winter. You can read more about it here. I think the orange and black segments look about equal length, so I feel safe that our winter would not be too harsh this year!These ghostly white berries look ominous, as they should! They are the fruit of poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. Every part of poison ivy, from the roots, fluids, bark, and leaves to the berries contain the same oil irritant that causes a nasty rash on most people. Poison ivy belongs to the Anacardiaceae family, which includes many edible plants such as cashews, pistachios, and mangoes. Sumacs are also in the Anacardiaceae family and some of them are also edible. It is really important to remember not to eat any plants or fungi you find on your hikes unless you are 100% confident in your identification. There are many healing and nourishing plants in the woods, but there are also some that are very toxic.I had never ventured off the main trail at Goat Hill before. All of the maps I had seen only showed the main trail. Even though I saw blaze markers, I never bothered to explore the different trails, because the main overlook was so lovely. Well, my friends convinced me to veer off and I am glad they did. There are so many overlooks on this trail and after some digging, I found another trail mapped (linked at the top of the page) that shows where the other blazes lead to. I am definitely going to set some time aside to explore these other trails!
While my friends were still gazing over Washington’s Rock, I saw a beautiful sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, and I wanted to take a picture capturing the colors and textures of the bark. I was really immersed in trying to get the right light and so completely focused on what I was doing, that I didn’t even hear my friends come up behind me. “What are you trying to take a picture of: the spotted lanternfly?” I stood up and said “What??? Where??” One of my friends laughed and said, “Right in front of you!” I looked down and, right at waist height, was a spotted lanternfly, a mere 12 inches below where I was looking. I was so shocked that I could be standing within inches of something and yet completely miss it. Well, once that spotted lanternfly was seen, it wasn’t long for this world!
One of my friends who was on the hike with me is Laura Kenny. She works for Penn State Extension and I am going to turn the rest of the blog post over to her.
My name is Laura Kenny, and I am an educator with Penn State Extension. Penn State Extension is a modern educational organization dedicated to delivering science-based information to people, businesses, and communities. Partnering with and funded by federal, state, and county governments, we have a long tradition of bringing unbiased support and education to the citizens of Pennsylvania. We make a difference locally through focused engagement, and more widely to customers connecting in the digital landscape.
As an educator with Penn State Extension, I have been learning about the invasion of the spotted lanternfly (SLF) since I began my job in 2016. This planthopper was accidentally introduced to southeastern Pennsylvania from Asia in 2014, and a quarantine zone was established to slow its spread. Businesses and organizations that transport material into or out of the quarantine zone were required by the PA Department of Agriculture to take a permit course about the SLF to learn how to avoid transporting it into new areas. The PA quarantine zone currently includes 14 counties.
Despite this good work, the SLF spread to New Jersey. In 2018 it was found in Mercer, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties. Since then, populations have established in 8 counties along the western border of the state, which are now under an official quarantine. See https://www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/prog/spottedlanternfly.html for a map and more details. As of September 2019, it has also been spotted in Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
So, what do you need to know about the spotted lanternfly?
- They do not directly hurt humans or animals- no bite or sting. It is currently unknown if they are toxic to ingest.
- They are destructive pests that feed on plant sap using a piercing mouthpart.
- Their favorite host plant is the invasive tree-of-heaven, but they will feed on more than 70 other plants and trees.
- They can cause losses in agricultural crops by weakening plants, and their sugary droppings promote the growth of mold on valuable crops. The tree fruit, grape, vineyard, and ornamental industries are particularly concerned about this pest.
The adults look like tan moths with spots on the wings and a bright red wing underneath (see picture above). In the late summer and fall, you will see adults and egg masses. Earlier in the spring and summer, they look completely different as nymphs. See this site for pictures of the nymphs: https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-what-to-look-for. Egg masses containing 30-50 eggs each look like a smudge of brown clay (see pictures below) and are very easy to miss! We found several egg masses on this tree and destroyed them by scraping at them with sticks. It’s better to use a plastic card to scrape them into a sealable bag for disposal or add some rubbing alcohol to the bag to kill them. However, we had no bags on us, so we tried to squish the masses the best we could!Can you spot the egg masses in this picture?It is amazing how well they blend into the background!This freshly laid egg mass is still moist, but they can appear lighter in color as they dry.What should you do if you see a SLF or egg mass?
Confirm identification. The nymph stages in particular can be confused with other insects. If you’re sure it’s a SLF…
Destroy it! First, kill the SLF or scrape the egg mass. You can send the specimen to the NJ Department of Agriculture’s lab for verification, you can take a picture and send it to SLFfirstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, or if you can’t take a sample or picture, call 1-833-223-2840 (BADBUG0) to report the sighting.
If you live within the quarantine zone, you should check your vehicle for SLF life stages or egg masses any time you drive out of the zone. You also should not transport yard waste, brush, firewood, etc. Here is a handy checklist of items that are likely to transport SLF and which should be inspected thoroughly before moving: https://www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/pdf/NJResidenceSLFChecklist.pdf
For more information on SLF, check out these resources: