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Volunteers use biosurveillance to find emerald ash borer

Extension educator holding a Cerceris wasp
Holding a Cerceris
By Amy Rager, Extension educator, Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Education

The Wasp Watchers Program is a University of Minnesota Extension citizen science project that engages volunteers in the biosurveillance of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive wood boring beetle that has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in over 20 states.

With the help of a harmless ground-nesting wasp (Cerceris fumipennis) that hunts wood-boring beetles like EAB, we can monitor for the presence of these destructive invasive beetles. The female Cerceris wasps hunt for beetles in the trees and carry their prey back to underground nests to feed to their offspring. Citizen scientist volunteers can 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. Most monitoring sites are baseball fields. The wasps prefer the sandy edges of the fields and are easy to monitor at these locations.

Since the program began in 2014, Extension has engaged 91 Wasp Watcher volunteers. Volunteers have given 639 hours to capture 344 buprestid beetles, search 351 new sites for Cerceris presence, and discover 59 known Cerceris nesting sites. Cerceris wasps and Wasp Watchers captured EAB at Riverside Park in Minneapolis in July 2016. All of the captured beetle specimens are identified by a taxonomist and are accessioned into the University of Minnesota Insect Collection. As part of program outreach and volunteer recruitment, Extension has provided educational presentations for over 1,376 participants, teaching about the scope, spread, symptoms and detection of EAB.

Extension is looking for more volunteers to monitor sites. If you are interested please visit the Wasp Watchers website. Other volunteer opportunities can be found on the Volunteer for Extension webpage.

Wasp Watcher sites across Minnesota

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