WaspWatch – Early Warning for Invasive Destructive Beetles

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WaspWatch – Early Warning for Invasive Destructive Beetles

By George Giltner, Adv. Master Gardener

Most of us have heard about the destructive effects of the Emerald Ash Borer. This pest is metallic green, ½ inch long and 1/8 inch wide. It lays eggs on the bark of ash trees in spring, which hatch into larvae that invade the cambium, between the bark and the wood. This inner bark feeding essentially cuts off the nutrient supply to the tree’s root system. Ash trees will die within two years of an invasion. EAB is now labeled as the most destructive forest pest ever seen in North America.

We have a wasp on our side that is providing an early warning system for detection of the EAB. This native ground-nesting wasp, Cerceris fumipennis uses EAB and native beetles called buprestids as paralyzed food for its larvae in underground nests. Since the wasp will not sting us, even when handled, you can capture the paralyzed beetles. You may even capture other newly-arrived buprestids, like the European Oak Borer. Contact the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum thru www.lsuinsects.org/cerceris/LSUwaspWatcher@gmail.com. Also go to www.lsuinsects.org/cerceris/LA_waspwatcher_program.pdf for more information on this Bio-surveillance program.

Identification of Cerceris fumipennis:

  1. It is about the size of common yellow jacket wasps, however these are not the aggressive social wasps like ground yellow jackets that attack intruders in mass.
  2. It has dark blue/black wings.
  3. Unlike yellow jackets, the body is primarily black with only a few yellow markings.
  4. A conspicuous single broad yellow band encircles the front of the abdomen.
  5. It is a solitary ground-nesting wasp. A neighborhood of single entry nests will occupy an informal colony of nests. Entrance holes are about the size of a pencil.
2015 cerceris

Left: Cerceris fumipennis , Right: Emerald Ash Borer (U. Conn. Photos)

Mr. George Giltner is an Advanced Master Gardener and Tree Farmer in Beauregard Parish, LA. George is also a self-taught entomologist and write about insects in his “Battle of the Bugs” Series.

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