By Jillian Risberg
She is fascinated by science and cares about the environment, so with the recent emergence of the spotted lanternfly it was important for Olivia Casale to inform the Mount Olive community about this environmental threat.
“I am working on my Girl Scout Gold Award project to stop the spread of the invasive species,” says the high school senior. “It’s important for us to protect the environment so we can maintain our ecosystems because Earth is our home.”
For Casale, the best possible outcome would be everyone doing their part until the lanternfly becomes extinct in the United States. This would help many industries that have been affected.
But first she wants everyone to capture and kill spotted lanternflies.
“Build circle traps, scrape eggs off of trees — and dispose of them in a bag with hand sanitizer or alcohol. I want them to know these insects are detrimental because they climb up trees, consume their sap and release honeydew (inducing) fungi and mold growth which damages trees,” says Casale.
“This causes a fungal disease that inhibits the plant’s ability to carry out photosynthesis and make the energy it needs to survive and grow. The honeydew also encourages other insects to feed on the trees.”
According to the Girl Scout — spotted lanternflies also cause serious plant damage, including oozing sap, wilting, leaf-curling and dieback. They are a tremendous threat to the agricultural and logging industries.
And the lanternflies are detrimental to grape vineyards. In Pennsylvania alone if the spotted lanternfly isn’t contained the insect could drain the state’s economy by up to $324 million each year and cause the loss of 2,800 jobs.
However, we can prevent them from damaging the environment by checking our vehicles and items for the lanternfly to make sure not to unintentionally transport them. Avoid parking under trees because the insects can use their hind legs to jump but just fly short distances, so cars are an ideal way for them to travel.
“It’s helpful to kill a spotted lanternfly by stepping on it when its head is facing you because it can only jump forward and will jump into your shoe,” says the Girl Scout, adding if you miss it to keep trying because after a few jumps it will lose energy and be easier to kill.
It is important to Casale that we protect trees, the environment and agriculture from the threat of the lanternfly.
“As humans we often negatively affect the environment; my project influences people to make a positive impact,” she says her favorite part of this whole endeavor has been educating members of the community at farmer’s markets.
Casale is also conducting a workshop on how to build a circle trap at the Mount Olive Library. She installed traps on trees around the community to capture spotted lanternflies, including at the Mount Olive municipal building and spent the day there educating the public.
Her flyer and link on how to build a spotted lanternfly trap are posted on the town website, were sent out in the Mount Olive Recreation newsletter to 8,000 people, and are posted on the Mount Olive Recreation Facebook page.
So far, she has devoted 53 hours to this enterprise and expects to complete it by April 2023.
“I love being part of the Mount Olive Girl Scouts because it gives me the opportunity to help our community,” Casale says it’s important for us to identify issues and solve them through acts of service. “I have had amazing experiences through Girl Scouts and met many wonderful people.”
She says this project has been rewarding and enjoyable. Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award (a longtime goal) would be an honor.
No stranger to service, Casale has also worked on the Girl Scout Bronze Award, where the MOGS collected books for children to read while waiting at a laundromat, hosted events where they mentored younger Girl Scouts, and made poppies for the Mount Olive veteran’s memorial.
She completed her Girl Scout Silver Award collecting blankets for dialysis patients and increased awareness about organ donation; volunteered at her church for four years through Youth Ministry and Teen Advisory Board leading such events as teen mass and service projects, supporting and advising younger parish members, and making important decisions for the church community.
Casale is an active Key Club member at Mount Olive High School and has volunteered at the food pantry and food drive, safe trick or treat and Santa house. In middle school she devoted time to the 11th Hour Rescue and Mount Olive Public Library.
“My mom inspires me to do my best and help others,” the Girl Scout cites her pharmacist mom who every day gives people life-saving medicine. “She also fueled my love for science and passion for helping others.”
And that’s exactly what Casale plans to do.