War on wasps
Wasps are taking a heavy toll on our ecosystems and economy. Victoria scientists are devising novel ways to wipe wasps out—hopefully for good.
This story has a ruthless villain, sex, violence and a nasty sting in the tail
Wasps are one of the most serious threats to New Zealand’s environment. This invasive insect kills the chicks of native birds and insects, and leaves little food for our birds and animals.
To humans, the wasp is the most dangerous animal in New Zealand, with a toxic sting that can kill a person. The damage inflicted by wasps costs our economy millions of dollars a year. Researchers at Victoria University of Wellington are leading a major component of the National Science Challenge, with the aim of drastically reducing wasp numbers without harming our native insects, animals or environment.
One approach involves sex. Targeting their sex pheromones can prevent wasps from mating, which will result in infertile eggs or a solely male population. Another approach to make wasps impotent includes exploiting genetic mutations already present within wasp populations.
There are millions of hectares of native beech forest in New Zealand where these invasive insects are so abundant that, at certain times of year, you can’t hear native birdsong above the drone of wasps. Victoria is aiming to solve this problem.