NC Fights Invasive Beetle With Stingerless Wasp

Sep 26, 2013

An invasive pest, the emerald ash borer, found in Granville County
Credit NC Dept. of Agriculture

North Carolina is releasing wasps to fight an invasive beetle in ash trees. 

Forestry officials say the particular species of wasp is a natural enemy of the emerald ash borer.  The beetle was first found in North Carolina earlier this year.  It invades ash trees and kills them in two to three years.

Kelly Oten of the North Carolina Forest Service released 900 wasps, which naturally do not have stingers, Thursday morning.  She says the USDA is breeding them.

"They lay eggs in the larvae of the beetles and basically eat it from the inside out," Oten says.

"We have native birds that eat the ash borer, too.  Hopefully between these things attacking it, it will keep the population at a more manageable level so we don't see the widespread mortality in ash trees that we're expecting."

Oten says the wasps amount to a preemptive strike to keep the beetles at bay.

"There are a lot of wood products made with ash; baseball bats, hockey sticks, a lot of handles for tools.  There's a lot of wildlife that depends on ash.  They eat the seeds and nest in the branches.  We really would see the difference in our forests," says Oten.

Oten says there is no evidence to suggest the wasps will attack other insect species that are harmless.  The state has restricted ash firewood and other products from leaving four counties where the beetles have been found.