September 1, 2009

Wasps used to monitor emerald ash borer

The U.S. state of Maine has developed an early-warning system to spot infestations of the emerald ash borer beetle, scientists say.

Because the invasive beetles are nearly impossible to detect in trees before it is too late, the Maine state forest service has launched an effort in which thousands of volunteers with nets are catching wasps who may be carrying captured ash borer larvae back to their young, The Boston Globe reported.

Forest Service entomologist Colleen Teerling told the newspaper it is the first large-scale effort in the United States to use a native species to monitor an invasive one.

It's a strange concept, but it seems to be working, Teerling told the Globe. We want to be able to find this thing as soon as possible. It's crucial.

Scientists say the emerald ash borer has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the United States since they first arrived in Michigan from Asia in 2002. Infested areas have been found as far south as Virginia and as far north as Canada, the newspaper said.