🐦 Glue traps are typically used to catch pesky spotted lanternflies

🐦 But glue traps often catch birds attracted to the struggling insects

🐦Glue traps are killing more birds every year in New Jersey


There has been a substantial uptick in birds in New Jersey getting stuck and seriously injured in glue traps that people often attach to tree trunks to try and kill invasive insects like spotted lanternflies.

Late spring through summer and fall is when the experts at The Raptor Trust in Long Hill Township, Morris County usually see these bird injuries, many of them fatal, said Executive Director, Christopher Soucy.

More importantly, this is avoidable, he said. Birds do not have to prematurely die at the hands of these glue traps.

Spotted lanternfly
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Spotted lanternfly (NJ DEP)

“For many years, we’ve seen a few birds a year caught in glue traps but since the invasion of spotted lanternflies, we’ve seen our numbers really go up. For instance, we were going from 8 to 10 birds a year that we might see in these glue traps to 32 in 2021, and then up to 83 in 2022,” Soucy said.

The Raptor Trust has taken in nearly 200 birds in the last four years that have been caught in these sticky traps, he said. It is simply a horrific scene.

People typically put out these rolls of sticky glue tape on trees to catch lanternflies, and other invasive bugs, Soucy said. Sure, the bugs do get caught, but he said the glue traps are indiscriminate, low-quality pest management.

Every year, birds are attracted to the struggling bugs on the glue traps either out of curiosity or they’re looking for food, Soucy said. Unfortunately, the birds that are attracted to the bugs on the glue traps become stuck themselves.

The birds get their feathers caught in the sticky glue and as they struggle, they get more feathers caught.

“Sometimes we’ve seen birds with all of their tail feathers, all of their primary wing feathers on both wings completely stuck. We’ve seen birds that have broken their own bones trying to free themselves,” Soucy said.

When The Raptor Trust gets these bird victims in, it’s a traumatic scene. Some of them die just from the stress. The survival rate on them is barely above 50 percent, Soucy said.

So what’s Soucy’s advice about catching those pesky, invasive, tree-damaging spotted lanternflies?

Simple. Don’t put out glue traps. He said they don’t really solve the problem anyway, and there are more humane traps that can be installed that will help catch the bugs, but not harm the birds and other small mammals like chipmunks, and bats.

One idea is to construct a funnel trap. It has a small entrance that’s perfect for catching bugs, but it’s not big enough for a small mammal or a bird to fit through, he said.

The Raptor Trust Facebook
The Raptor Trust Facebook
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It’s easy to find information about funnel and circle traps. Soucy said when spotted lanternflies first started to become rampant in the northeast, researchers from The University of Pennsylvania did a series of instructional videos on these humane funnel and circle traps.

Also, keep in mind that any native wild bird in North America is protected by state and federal law. It’s a crime to intentionally injure them. So, if people are putting out glue traps, guess what? Birds will get stuck in them, and possibly die, Soucy said.

Four birds have been found caught in glue traps so far this year and brought to The Raptor Trust for treatment. But Soucy said those glue traps do not appear to be spotted lanternfly-related.

Spotted lanternfly
Spotted lanternfly (NJ DEP)
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The 2022 Raptor Trust report provides details as to how the staff attempts to treat these feathery victims.

Soucy said they use a veterinary-grade solvent that helps dissolve the glue and free the bird from the trap. Then, they try to stabilize the bird from the stress. Then, gently over time, more solvent is used to get any remaining glue off of their feathers.

He said if a bird loses feathers, it’s a long recovery. Birds can and do replace all their feathers every year during a complete molt. But Soucy said the molt usually happens through the spring and summer. Birds need their feathers to stay warm during the winter so the molting process does not happen during the winter months.

The Raptor Trust Facebook
The Raptor Trust Facebook
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So, if a bird comes to The Raptor Trust in late summer that’s already molted and loses more feathers due to a glue trap, it’s with the organization for an entire year. The bird has to wait out the entire season until it molts new feathers.

“We don’t really want to do that. Any day in captivity for a wild animal is a bad day full of danger. They don’t know that they’re in good care. They don’t know that we’re trying to help them,” Soucy said.

Birds can be injured in captivity despite their best efforts, Soucy said. The goal is to get them back into the wild as soon as possible.

But, if they lose so many feathers that they can’t fly, it can be a long stay in captivity, which is potentially dangerous to their well-being, he said.

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