Alien, parasitic wasps!

Alien, parasitic wasps being released by the thousands in Canada!

It sounds like the plot for a science fiction movie, but believe it or not it’s actually being done in the name of science.

Researchers with Natural Resources Canada are releasing wasps from Asia into select forest areas in an attempt to combat another invasive insect, one that has been decimating native ash trees.

"We're actually releasing what are called parasitoids. They are tiny wasps that attack the emerald ash borer," says Dr. Krista Ryall, a senior research scientist with NRC’s Canadian Forest Service.

The emerald ash borer is an Asian beetle with few natural predators in North America. The project is introducing two species of Asian wasp to fill that void. The wasp larvae feed exclusively on ash borer eggs and larvae.

Because their diet is so exclusive, scientists have determined it is safe to introduce the wasps here. “They don't want to eat anything else. So even if you give them no choice but some other species they basically won't eat and they'll just die,” says Ryall.

The wasps should have virtually no impact on humans. They are incredibly tiny, just millimeters in length, and they don’t sting or bite. Much of their life cycle is spent under the bark of ash trees, feasting on the ash borer eggs and larvae that might otherwise kill the tree.

The wasps have been released at various sites in Canada since 2013. So far, it appears they have adapted well to their new environment. Ryall cautions it will take several more years to determine if they are effective in helping to control the emerald ash borer population.