Delaware’s Laws and Regulations Regarding Invasive Species

Delaware’s Laws and Regulations Regarding Invasive Species

Delaware has a series of laws and regulations designed to prevent the import and establishment of invasive species.  Two state agencies, the Department of Agriculture (DDA) and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) administer laws involving invasive species.  These agencies have a number of regulatory tools available including permits and licenses, transportation and shipping requirements, monitoring, and bonds and insurance.

Invasive Plants (Senate Bill 22)

This Act prohibits the import, export, sale, transport, distribution, or propagation of any plant identified by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DDA), with the advice of the Delaware Native Species Commission, as an invasive plant. This Act also requires that plants identified by the Secretary as potentially invasive be sold with a tag that identifies the plant as potentially invasive.

To find the current list of plant species that have been identified as invasive or potentially invasive by the Secretary, and to find instructions for reporting nursery violations, please visit the DDA webpage on Nursery Inspection.

Plant Pests and Diseases

The Plant Pest Law grants DDA the general authority to prevent the introduction of, or to control dangerously injurious plant pests. Legal instruments include quarantines, permits, penalties, and the authority to write additional regulations.

Nursery Industry

A license from the DDA is required for persons to sell or distribute plants, nursery stock, or horticultural products. Imported plants and nursery stock must be accompanied by a certificate from the state of origin, ensuring that the plants have been examined and found (apparently) free of dangerously injurious plant pests.


Beekeepers in Delaware must register with the State, and have their apiaries examined at least annually. The importation of bees or used beekeeping equipment requires an entry permit from DDA and presentation of an inspection certificate from the State of origin stating that the bees or equipment are free of all diseases, mites, and Africanized honeybees.


The introduction of any species of domestic or wild animal onto lands administered by the DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation is prohibited. A permit is required to import, possess, sell, or exhibit any live wild mammal or live reptile not native to or generally found in Delaware. However, DNREC can exempt mammals and reptiles that do not represent a significant threat to community interests. Miscellaneous wildlife are covered under Delaware Code Title 7, 768, 770, and 795.

Birds and Poultry

No person may catch, possess, purchase, transport, or ship any wild bird other than a game bird, except as expressly permitted by law. The DDA may enter any premises where exotic avian species are kept to determine if any birds are infected with a contagious disease capable of affecting poultry.


DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) must grant permission to stock any species of fish in the non-tidal public waters of Delaware and to transport, purchase, possess, or sell walking catfish, white amur, or grass carp. Aguaculture activities must not promote the introduction of any nonindigenous species that harbors disease or parasites or are capable of competing with indigenous plant or animal species. Every fee-fishing operation must be registered with the DDA, and it must be a closed system.

Aquatic Plants

Under existing law, DNREC may institute programs of control for common reed (Phragmites australis). The Department has the authority to enter into agreements with counties to survey and control this species.

Nuisance Aquatic Species

The surface waters of Delaware must be free of substances attributable to wastes resulting from human activity, including any pollutant that may result in the dominance of nuisance species. Nuisance species are fish, other animals or plants living in or near the water, which cause unreasonable interference with the designated uses of the waters or of adjoining land areas.

Noxious Weeds

The DDA currently designates 4 non-native plant species as noxious weeds; Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), Johnsongrass (Sorghum halapense), Palmer’s amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri), and Texas panicum (Panicum texanum). It is unlawful for any landowner to allow any of these plant species to flower or exceed a height of 24 inches.

More information can be found at the DDA Noxious Weed webpage.


DDA administers a Seed Law, which allows the Department to sample, inspect, analyze and test seeds transported within the state. The Department has authority over prohibited noxious weed seeds and restricted noxious weed seeds. It is illegal to transport or sell agricultural, vegetable, flower or tree or shrub seeds within Delaware containing prohibited or restricted noxious weed seeds. Animal feed, fertilizer, and soil conditioners sold within the state must not contain an excess amount of viable weed seeds.

Biological Control Agents

DDA regulates and controls the sale and use of biological control agents, to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Movement, shipment, and sale of biological control agents requires a State and Federal permit.