Delaware sounds new spotted lanternfly alarm, asks for help wiping out pest

@VALUEZTV AM EDITION


Maddy Lauria


There's a new quarantine in effect in northern Delaware, and it has nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic.


An invasive species known as the spotted lanternfly has established itself in Odessa, forcing state officials to expand a quarantine that began in February 2019. 


The quarantine, which now includes all of New Castle County, means that people can't move any material or object that could harbor the pest out of the quarantine zone without taking precautions to prevent the spread, which could include killing the bugs first, agricultural officials said in a press release.


Adults can fly, hop, or drop onto a vehicle – meaning that this pest can easily be transported to new areas where it can create another infestation, officials said.


Spotted lanternflies can destroy a variety of plants including trees, shrubs, orchards, grapes and hops, threatening Delaware’s agricultural industry, forests and residential areas.


The insect is native to China, India and Vietnam and was first spotted stateside in Pennsylvania in 2014. Delaware was the second state to detect the invasive pest last year, and since then it has also been found in Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. Single dead specimens have been found in New York and Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Delaware agriculture experts said a mild winter has allowed a high hatching rate for spotted lanternfly nymphs, raising concern that this expert hitchhiker could spread even farther.


The Delaware Department of Agriculture is working with federal partners to survey for the invasive insect. So far, 4,088 acres in Delaware have been treated for spotted lanternflies, including 20,135 trees on 185 properties north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, officials said.


Tree of heaven, which can often be found in industrial parks, unmanaged areas, vacant lots and along roadways, is vital for the spotted lanternfly's reproduction.


Targeting those trees can help decrease the population of spotted lanternfly. 

“The treatment program is focused on properties that have tree of heaven present, but we know from surveying that many homeowners are finding the nymphs on other plants in their landscapes as well," said DDA Plant Industries Administrator Jessica Inhof.


Inhof encourages homeowners to use insecticides labeled for planthoppers or leafhoppers to kill nymphs and adult spotted lanternflies, or hire commercial pesticide applicators to help with treatment.


The quarantine will be expanded if necessary, officials said. 


“We are encouraging everyone to help us battle the spotted lanternfly and slow its spread," said Katie Bielicki, Delaware Spotted Lanternfly Program Coordinator.


"All spotted lanternfly should be destroyed, but if you are below the C&D Canal and find spotted lanternfly we want to know and need a specimen to confirm.”


Bielicki said that over the next week or so, lanternfly nymphs may change colors to black with red splotches and white dots. That shift signals that the insects are about to transform into adults, which usually starts in mid-July.


It's easier to kill nymphs than adults that can climb into the upper canopies of trees to lay their egg masses, she said.


Beginning in September, the female spotted lanternfly will lay several egg masses of 30 to 50 eggs wherever it chooses, especially on flat surfaces, officials said.


Any person conducting business that requires movement of any regulated item within or from the quarantine area must undergo training and testing on pest and quarantine requirements and obtain a permit available through the DDA spotted lanternfly website.


The general public is encouraged to download and print the Delaware Resident Spotted Lanternfly Compliance Checklist if moving items out of the quarantine area. The list helps ensure that people have thoroughly inspected items and confirmed that there are no spotted lanternflies present, reducing the risk of giving the bug a ride to an uninfected area. The checklist is available online at de.gov/hitchhikerbug.


Items can include anything that has a sign of any life stage of the spotted lanternfly, especially landscaping, remodeling, or construction materials, firewood, packing materials like wood crates or boxes, all plants and plant parts including live and dead trees, perennial and annual plants and mulch, and outdoor household items like RVs, lawnmowers, chairs, grills, tarps, tile, stone, deck boards and other vehicles not stored indoors.


For more information go to de.gov/hitchhikerbug or call (302) 698-4632. If reporting a sighting, please provide the location of the sighting and contact information.

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