Nick Fetty | May 25, 2016
Officials in Iowa will be releasing thousands of tiny, stingless wasps in the next few weeks as a way to combat the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB).
Iowa officials will introduce two species of parasitic wasps to deal with the EAB infestation that has been recorded in 31 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Each wasp species, which are harmless to humans and about the size of a grain of rice, will attack the EAB in two ways: one by laying eggs inside EAB eggs and the other by laying eggs in the EAB larvae. Both species also use the EAB to feed its offspring.
Officials with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will release the wasps into a 133-acre wooded area near Fairfield in Jefferson County. The Jefferson County site will be part of a four-year effort that involves releasing the wasps into the environment and monitoring their affects on EAB populations. Officials have also considered releasing wasps in Allamakee County where the EAB was first detected in 2010.
The parasitic wasps were first discovered in China in 2002 and were studied for several years before being used in the United States to fight the EAB. Officials with the Iowa State University’s Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic are confident that the introduction of the wasps will not harm other ecosystems and said that “in general, it’s a very small number of parasites or predators to an invasive species [that] gets released.”