Netting Wasps To Help Fight Emerald Ash Borer

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Scientists in Minnesota believe they’ve found an insect that can do what they haven’t been able to do very well — get rid of the emerald ash borer.

This afternoon, experts from the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture showcased a rather unique wasp.

Scientists think it can help them destroy the emerald ash borer before the invasive insect kills trees.

The native Minnesota wasp, nicknamed the smoky-winged beetle bandit, can be used as a weapon, but it doesn’t sting humans.

“Knowing that the wasps don’t hurt people is really important,” said Jennifer Schultz, the coordinator of the U of M’s Wasp Watchers Program. “They are harmless wasps. They don’t sting people. They only paralyze their prey. They only use their stinger for their prey.”

This wasp builds nests in the ground and then sets out to collect the emerald ash borer and other wood-boring beetles in order to feed its young.

Scientists say the wasp likes hard-packed sandy soil, which is why they tend to build nests at baseball fields.

By using nets to see what the wasps are dragging into their holes, scientists say they’ll be able to find the emerald ash borer before it destroys trees.

“We see if they are carrying a beetle they’ve hunted,” Schultz said. “We capture the beetle from them; they usually just drop it in the net. Then we can see if that beetle is the emerald ash bore.”

The state has enlisted 100 volunteers to document the location of these wasp colonies.

Early detection is the key to winning the war.

“The adults live in the treetops and the larvae live under the bark, so they are virtually impossible to see,” Schultz said. “The early detection is very difficult: You only see the symptoms four or five years into the infestation.”

On the East Coast, several states have seen success with their volunteer wasp watching programs. It’s helped them find the emerald ash borer before the trees they’re in start showing symptoms of being infected.

Our state is still looking for more volunteers to help locate the wasp colonies on baseball fields and report their location.

You can go to the Wasp Watchers Program website for the details.

The emerald ash borer was first detected in Minnesota in 2009 and is now found in eight counties: Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Dakota, Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted and Winona.

The Wasp Watchers program is one of several joint Minnesota Department of Agriculture and U of M projects funded through a grant by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources.

EAB is one of America’s most destructive tree pests.

Its larvae kill ash trees by tunneling into the wood and feeding on the tree’s nutrients.

More from Angela Davis
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