News / Science & Technology

Wasp Recruited to Fight Invasive Beetle

Wasps Recruited to Battle Invasive Beetlei
X
July 17, 2014 2:15 AM
Scientists in Maryland are pitting insects against insects in a battle to control an invasive species. Around the world, non-indigenous plants and animals cost an estimated $1.4 trillion in damage and control expenses, according to the United Nations. But rather than spraying pesticides that risk doing additional harm, researchers are bringing in the invasive species' natural predators to try to restore balance. VOA's Steve Baragona has the story.

Scientists are pitting insects against insects in a battle to control an invasive species.

U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers have released tiny parasitic wasps in forests in Maryland to attack the emerald ash borer, an invader from China that is devastating forests across the northern United States.

By the end of this decade, this insect will have done an estimated $10 billion of damage nationwide, according to one study.

Plant and animal hitchhikers traversing the planet in our globalized economy have made invasive species a $1.4 trillion-a-year problem worldwide, says the United Nations.

But rather than spraying pesticides that risk doing additional harm, the USDA scientists are bringing the invasive insect’s natural predators in from Asia to try to restore balance.

Forests at risk

Beneath the bark of an infested ash tree, the borer’s larvae carve twisting paths that cut off the supply of nutrients. It’s like slashing the tree’s arteries.

"There is a possibility some species may be completely wiped out by this beetle,” said USDA entomologist Jian Duan. “And you can imagine the cascading effect of losing a tree species in our native forest."

Ash trees make up 20 to 40 percent of some northern U.S. forests. The emerald ash borer threatens them and all the creatures that depend on them.

When the borer arrived from China in the 1990s - likely in a wooden crate or shipping pallet - it had no natural enemies here.

Consorting with the enemy

In Asia, several species of parasitic wasps lay their own eggs inside borers’ eggs. The young wasps steal the developing borer's food, and the borer dies. Other wasps lay eggs in the larva itself. The eggs hatch and eat the larva alive as they grow.

It’s a grizzly but effective way to keep the emerald ash borer’s population in check.

So Duan is introducing these wasps to forests under attack.

Wasps are used successfully to control cassava mealybugs in Africa and many other invasive pests.

Quarantine

But Duan knows that fighting an invasive insect with another import can be risky. It could become invasive, too.

So his lab raises wasps in quarantine while they're tested. He will only release picky eaters: wasps that would much rather attack an emerald ash borer than a native insect.

So far, Duan’s team has released three species of wasps. There are early signs that they are helping to slow the emerald ash borer’s advance. But they have a big job ahead of them.

While they have released several thousand wasps, one infested tree can produce hundreds of emerald ash borers. “It's really a drop in the ocean," Duan said.

"You have to think long-term,” he added.

Now Duan and his team will watch and wait to see if the wasps can return some balance to an ecosystem at risk.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More