The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 16, 2010

Indicator wasp study to occur at Foss

The Conservation Commission (ConsCom) has approved a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) study of the burrowing wasp, Cerceris fumipennis, at Foss Farm. C. fumipennis is a non-stinging native wasp considered a possible indicator of the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis). The study is an example of “biosurveillance,” where one living organism is used to monitor for another.

The invasive Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle in the family Buprestidae, is moving east from the midwestern United States. Its larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) and eat the cambium and phloem. Infested trees can die within two years.

C. fumipennis collects adult buprestid beetles to feed its young. (The July 2 issue of the Mosquito incorrectly indicated that the wasp parasitizes beetle larvae. The Mosquito regrets the error.) The study will determine which species of beetles the wasps at Foss Farm are capturing.

The species is solitary. Each female constructs its own nest, near those of other females. There is a large colony of C. fumipennis at Foss Farm, which has the sandy loamy soil the wasps prefer. Colonies are in the open. The wasps hunt for beetles in nearby trees. The female captures a beetle, paralyzes it, places it in a chamber in her nest, and then lays an egg. She repeats the process for each egg.

USFS conducted a biosurveillance training session last week at Foss Farm – the second in two years. Seventeen people attended the training. They counted 70 nests in the wasp colony and detected eight to ten different species of borer beetles captured by the wasps, a greater variety than they had found in previous training sessions. None were Emerald Ash Borer.

The sessions teach USFS and state agency employees to identify the burrowing wasps. (See “ConsCom approves biosurveillance training, wildlife study,” Mosquito, July 2).

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