Nope, a null check is not required before using instanceof.
You can read this here in section 15.20.
It's clearly stated that
"At run time, the result of the instanceof operator is true if the value of the RelationalExpression is not null and the reference could be cast to the ReferenceType without raising a ClassCastException. Otherwise, the result is false."
means, The expression x instanceof SomeClass will be false if x is null.
Hence, if the operand is null, the instanceof will return false.