Delaware Residents Encouraged to Kill Invasive Insect Species

The spotted lanternfly, an insect native to China, Bangladesh and Vietnam, has invaded Delaware. The invasive critter is devouring commercial crops in the state, and the Delaware Department of Agriculture has asked Delawareans to join the fight by stepping on them.

In a statement released to Delaware Online, Plant Industries Administrator Jessica Inhof said, "We realize that residents cannot kill all of them. But even stomping on one makes a difference."

The spotted lanternfly was first spotted in Wilmington in 2017. But the insect has spread. Now, it is attacking grapes, apples, hops and certain trees. Effects from the infestation trickle down to farmers, timber workers and craft brewers.

According to the Delaware Department of Agriculture, the female spotted lanternfly will lay egg masses—usually on flat surfaces—each bearing 30-50 eggs. When winter ends, the lanternfly nymphs will start hatching towards the end of April 2020.

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If you see a spotted lanternfly in Delaware, step on it. Getty

As of this writing, a quarantine area has been set up include all portions of New Castle County north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. This means that any item that could spread the spotted lanternfly must not be moved to other areas of the state. This means anything that has been outdoors long enough for an egg mass to be attached, including vehicles, metal and stone, must be inspected.

The spotted lanternfly has a black head and legs, while the abdomen is yellow with black bands. Their forewings are grey with black spots, while their rear wings are red with black spots. The insect measures approximately one inch long and one half-inch wide.

While stomping on a creepy-crawly can be fun, the Agriculture Department has set forth a bug-killing protocol. The first thing to do is take a picture. With GPS tagging turned on, photograph the spotted lanternfly with your phone. Post that picture to Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #HitchHikerBug.

Amateur exterminators can also scrape egg masses into a bag containing rubbing alcohol or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The eggs should then be crushed.

After collecting the little buggers in a vial or plastic zipper bag, those specimens should be turned into the Delaware Department of Agriculture CAPS program for verification.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture earmarked $17.5 million to wipe out the spotted lanternfly. But that isn't the only invasive insect species the U.S. is dealing with. Entomology Today reports that the brown marmorated stink bug, which was accidentally introduced to the U.S. in the late 1990s, has hampered the production of fruit trees to the tune of approximately $37 million.