As of July 1, 2020, the formal Wasp Watchers Program ended. However, interested volunteers can still monitor Smoky Winged Beetle Bandit wasp nests in order to look out for Emerald Ash Borer. Volunteers can use existing online data collection tools: iNaturalist to collect buprestid biodiversity data; and EDDMapS or Arrest the Pest to report Emerald Ash Borer infestations. For more information about the ending of this program, read the Sunset Notice.
The University of Minnesota's Wasp Watchers Program was a citizen science project (2014-2020) that engaged 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 dozens of states. It is 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 across numerous states have monitored the hunting behaviors of the Cerceris wasps to survey for the presence of EAB. 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.
The aim of the Wasp Watchers Program (2014-2020) was to detect and report emerald ash borer as well as build our body of knowledge about native buprestids (metallic, wood-boring) beetles. This can still be accomplished even without the formal program by utilizing existing online reporting systems. Volunteers can monitor beetle bandit nesting sites and watch out for EAB. If you find EAB, you can report it through EDDMapS or through the Arrest the Pest hotline. You can collect data on other buprestids by photographing them and posting them on iNaturalist. Click on the Volunteer tab to learn more.
This project was a collaboration with the University of Minnesota Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota Extension, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).