Bobbi Wilson

Bobbi Wilson


In February of 2023 the Yale School of Public Health, after learning about 9-year-old Bobbi Wilson’s encounter with the police following her efforts to curb the presence of the invasive spotted lantern fly, honored her with a ceremony at Yale. 

State agricultural departments across the country urged Americans to kill the invasive insects, which posed a threat to native trees and plants by sucking sap and encouraging fungal disease. In October 2022, after learning in school how to eradicate these insects, the fourth-grader was spraying those flies using her homemade mixture of soap, water, and vinegar in the neighboring blocks around her home in Caldwell, New Jersey. 

She was approached by a police officer summoned by a white neighbor who called to report a suspicious person. The then 70-year-old white male had told the dispatcher in the 911 call: “There’s a little Black woman walking, spraying stuff on the sidewalks and trees on Elizabeth and Florence. I don’t know what the hell she’s doing. Scares me, though.”  A uniformed officer was sent out to question her. As Bobbi’s mother explained: “Racism, intentional or not, is still racism.”  

Shortly after the incident, an assistant professor of public health at Yale invited Bobbi and her family to meet other Black female scientists at Yale and accept Bobbi’s lantern fly collection to the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale. “Yale doesn’t normally do anything like this … this is something unique to Bobbi. We wanted to show her bravery and how inspiring she is,” said Ijeoma Opara, the Associate Professor of Public Health at Yale. 

Article on Bobbi Wilson in Yale News