Sept. 26 2019 08:38 PM

Delaware is trying to put the boot to a spotted lanternfly invasion.


The state of Delaware is openly encouraging its citizens to commit insecticide, according to a Newsweek story. The spotted lanternfly, an invasive insect native to Asia, has come to the state and is gobbling up its commercial crops. So, the Delaware Department of Agriculture has asked the state’s residents to join the fight. By stepping on them.

The story reports that in a statement released to Delaware Online, Plant Industries Administrator Jessica Inhof says, “We realize that residents cannot kill all of them. But even stomping on one makes a difference.”

The bad bug was first noted in Wilmington in 2017. Since then, it’s gone on to attack grapes, apples, hops and certain species of trees, impacting farmers and craft brewers alike.

And, like most insects, it’s a prodigious producer of offspring. A single female lanternfly can lay egg masses that contain 30 to 50 eggs, according to the Delaware Department of Agriculture. The eggs that survive the winter will start hatching toward the end of April 2020.

To try and stem the tide of these invaders, a quarantine area has been set up to prevent items that could spread the spotted lanternfly from being moved to other areas of the state. It includes all portions of New Castle County north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Anything that’s been outdoors long enough to possibly have an egg mass attached to it must be inspected. That includes metal, stone and vehicles.

The spotted lanternfly is about one inch long and a half-inch wide. It can be identified by its black head and legs and yellow abdomen striped with black bands. Its forewings are grey with black spots, and the rear wings are red with black spots.

According to the story, the state’s Agriculture Department isn’t suggesting carefree bug-killing sprees it wants people to document their crimes. Residents are being asked to snap pictures of their victims with the GPS tagging turned on,and then post those pictures to social media with the hashtag #HitchHikerBug. They are also being asked to scrape any egg masses they find into a bag containing rubbing alcohol or alcohol-based hand sanitizer and then crush them.

After scooping the carnage into vials or plastic zipper bags, the containers should be turned into the Delaware Department of Agriculture CAPS program for verification.

The article reports that in 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture earmarked $17.5 million to wipe out the spotted lanternfly. Unfortunately, it's far from the only invasive insect to plague the U.S. The story quotes Entomology Today as saying that the brown marmorated stink bug, accidentally introduced into the country in the late 1990s, has cost fruit tree producers around $37 million.

And there are lots of other destructive invasive pests out there in other states, like the emerald ash borer and the gypsy moth and the polyphgous shot borer, too many to list here.

Better get those bug-stompin' boots ready!