Wasp Watchers is a citizen science project that engages volunteers in the biosurveillance of emerald ash borer (EAB). Emerald ash borer is an invasive wood boring beetles that has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in over 20 states. It is currently found in over a dozen counties in Minnesota. For an up-to-date map of where EAB is found in Minnesota go to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s interactive EAB map.
A native, stingless, ground-nesting wasp called the smoky winged beetle bandit (Cerceris fumipennis) hunts for metallic wood boring beetles including EAB. The female Cerceris wasps hunt for beetles in the trees and bring their prey back to their nest holes in the ground to provision their nests as food for their offspring. Cerceris fumipennis prefer to nest in sandy, compact soil and less used baseball fields are an ideal habitat.
Citizen scientists can monitor the hunting behaviors of the Cerceris wasps to survey for the presence of these destructive invasive beetles. Wasp Watcher volunteers intercept the foraging wasps using an aerial net and the beetle prey can be captured and identified to determine if EAB is present at that site. Volunteer and help with EAB early detection!
For more information on biosurveillance, check out these links:
Overview of Solitary Wasps video: Solitary Wasps: An Introduction for Naturalists Click on Sand Wasps B and the Cerceris fumipennis tab to see Cerceris fumipennis in action