There is a quarantine in place for New Castle County that has nothing to do with coronavirus.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture on July 1, 2020, expanded a New Castle County based quarantine for the spotted lanternfly to include the entire county after a population of the invasive pest was found in Odessa.

Stephen Hauss, an environmental scientist with the state department of agriculture, said the first sighting of the insect in Delaware was in late 2017 but since then it has grown exponentially throughout New Castle County.

"2019 was our first year of treating," said Hauss. "It was all over Wilmington. We started seeing it down a little further south towards the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Half of New Castle County was pretty well covered."

Officials said due to the mild winter there has been a high hatch rate of spotted lanternfly nymphs in 2020.

The lanternfly changes appearance through its stages of life from a black nymph with white spots, to developing an eye-popping red exterior with white spots, to the mature look of a moth with black spots.

Hauss said don't be fooled by the pest' s attractive appearance - they are a voracious eater of a wide range of trees, shrubs, orchards, grapes, and hops.

"As they feed they're sucking the juices out of the plant and then they secrete this substance called honeydew which is an excrement and it can get pretty gross.

"If you're standing underneath a tree where there is a spotted lanternfly feeding it's almost like it's raining this sugary liquid down on you."

The effort now is aimed at preventing the spread of the bug further south into the richer agricultural areas of Kent and Sussex counties.

"We do have some high value properties in southern Delaware," said Hauss.

"We have some vineyards, we have some orchards, and we're working with them on doing some preemptive treatment when they have tree of heaven on their property along with grapevines and peach and apple trees."

The tree of heaven is an invasive plant and is a preferred host for the invasive lanternfly.

Agriculture officials said the tree is often seen in industrial parks, along highways and railways, and in unmanaged areas or vacant lots.

To date, 4,088 acres have been treated including 20,135 trees encompassing 185 properties above the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

And while state officials are working larger tracts of land, they're looking to Delaware residents to help them eradicate the pest from personal property.

"Homeowners and citizens in general have a lot of power to help us in beating the bug," said Hauss. "They can do their best to limit the number on their property by finding some good treatment recommendations on the Delaware Department of Agriculture web site."

Hauss said the spotted lanternfly can also be a hitchhiker and they are asking northern Delaware residents to check their vehicles before traveling south.

Finally, ag officials want to be notified about any spotted lanternfly sightings if it's believed to be outside the New Castle County quarantine area.

"Please report it to us because we want to know as soon as possible so we can get out there and stop it from spreading."

And Hauss emphasizes once you spot a spotted lanternfly, kill it.

For more detailed information regarding the quarantine, permitting, treatment, or to report a sighting of spotted lanternfly, visit the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s dedicated spotted lanternfly webpage at https://de.gov/hitchhikerbug.

You can also call the dedicated spotted lanternfly hotline at (302) 698-4632. When leaving a message, leave your contact information and, if reporting a sighting, provide the location of the sighting.

TrafficWatch & News Reporter for WDEL/WSTW 1989 - 1993 and back again for Round Two starting in February, 2015 after spending a decade in Chicago and another six years in Boston.