Commonly found in parts of China and Vietnam, spotted lanternflies made their way to the United States in swarms. The invasive lanternfly is not harmful to humans or animals but is a nuisance. A teenager in New Jersey wants to help deal with the pesky fly with an AI Solar-powered tree that safely takes care of the insect.

The invasive spotted lanternfly

AI and Solar-powered Solution

Eighteen-year-old high schooler Selina Zheng first noticed the spotted lanternflies in her hometown of Annandale, New Jersey in grade school, and at first, the bright colors of the lanternfly caught her eye. They intrigued her but that interest changed throughout the years. Her opinions shifted when she realized the fly ravaged the local agricultural industry.

Lanternflies don’t cause any harm to humans or animals. However, they have a large appetite for most plants and various fruits like grapes, ornamental trees, and even woody trees. In addition, they impact the quality of life for people who live in an infested area. Lanternflies like to lay their masses of eggs on trees and even on cars, which produce thousands more.

When Zheng realized the invasive fly posed a threat to her city, she decided she wanted to do something about it, but she wanted to find a cleaner solution. Typically, infestations are treated with insecticides but they could potentially leave behind harmful chemicals for other insects. During her search for a safer method, she found inspiration in a chess board and the game “Dance Dance Revolution.”

Demonstration of the solar-powered ArTreeficial; Photo: SSPCDN

The unique inspiration brought her to a final product that attracts spotted lanternflies and exterminates them with a zap. She calls it the ArTreeficial. It’s a solar-powered, self-cleaning “tree” that is driven by artificial intelligence. During her field study, which lasted weeks, she analyzed their behavior, how they grew, and the areas they chose to cluster.

The Final Product

After gathering all of the information Zheng needed for the design, she put together a replica of a Tree of Heaven, the preferred home of a spotted lanternfly. Her artificial tree is made from an umbrella from her family’s patio and an electric net that uses artificial intelligence to detect and zap any lanternflies that land on it. This still required more testing after encountering a few challenges.

Tree of Heaven is also invasive and the preferred home of the spotted lanternfly; Photo:

Zheng upgraded ArTreeficial with a double-layered net to get the perfect striking distance. The creation is catching the eyes of the science industry. The President and CEO of the Society of Science Maya Ajmera is impressed with the multi-layered innovation. She said, “The project uses AI, it uses chemistry, it’s dealing with climate change and solar power. It’s a whole amalgam of the interdisciplinary nature of science and engineering in this project. That’s what makes it stand out for me.”

It’s safe to say the future is bright for the young inventor Selina Zheng.