State needs your help to find and eradicate invasive insect

Karl Baker
The News Journal

Delaware agriculture officials want the public to alert them if they see a spotted lanternfly – a destructive and invasive insect that has taken up residence in New Castle County.

Delaware is the second U.S. state to have a confirmed presence of the hopping, inch-long Asian creatures, which damage plants when they suck sap from stems, leaves and trunks.

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State inspectors found a dead spotted lanternfly in the Wilmington area, according to the Delaware Department of Agriculture. Officials want to eradicate the pests before they spread.

The invasive spotted lanternfly has been seen in New Castle County.

“We have collected one spotted lanternfly female, and don’t know if this is a hitchhiker or an indicator of a population attempting to establish in Delaware. Over the winter months we will be conducting an intensive survey around the detection location, searching for egg masses," said Dr. Faith Kuehn, administrator of the Delaware Plant Industries Section.

This insect is considered a threat to crops and forests, and early detection is vital for the protection of Delaware businesses and agriculture, agricultural officials said in a statement.

In the late fall, lanternflies lay egg masses on trees and nearby smooth surfaces, such as stone, outdoor furniture and vehicles. The masses have a grey mud-like covering, which can appear dry and cracked over time. 

Anyone who sees a spotted lanternfly or an egg mass should take its picture with a GPS enabled device, then collect the insect, agriculture officials said.

Photos can be uploaded to Facebook or Instagram, using the hashtag #HitchHikerBug, or emailed to, along with contact information, and a location.

Collected specimens should be placed in a vial or plastic zip-lock bag with the name and contact information of the collector, and turned into the Delaware Department of Agriculture program for verification.

The public also can report a find online at 

First detected in the United States in Berks County, Pennsylvania, the spotted lanternfly has spread to 13 other counties in that state.

Contact Karl Baker at or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.