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Looking for a silver lining

Looking for a silver lining


Paul Richardson
By Paul Richardson

The US government has unleashed millions of wasps into 24 states. But, contrary to the horrifying mental pictures this creates, the release of the wasps is actually suppose to be a good thing. The emerald ash borer is believed to have invaded North America in the 1990s via wooden shipping crates from Russia and China. Since then, the beetle has spread across more than two dozen states from Massachusetts to Louisiana, according to Phys.org.

In doing so, the ash borer has killed approximately 38 million ash trees. And that’s a $25 billion problem. The possible solution: four species of tiny wasps from China to eat the insect.

These wasps each about the size of a pinhead, are parasites to the ash borer, which has no natural enemies in North America. The wasps lay their eggs in ash borer eggs and larva, killing the beetle in the process. But humans have nothing to fear. The stingless wasps are more likely to be mistaken for gnats than anything else.

“The word ‘wasps’ does create alarm, but they are very small, not recognizable by the average person,” Iowa Department of Agriculture rep Mike Kintner says.

After extensive testing with other beetle species, experts are also confident the wasps won’t threaten any native insects. Still, even with a seemingly perfect weapon, the battle against the ash borer is far from over. “This isn’t going to save anybody’s tree in their yard,” entomologist Ben Slager stated. “What we’re working to do is to protect the next generation coming up.

The very same thing happen to native Chestnut trees in the early part of the twentieth century, but by the time anyone realized what was happening, it was too late. Every last native Chestnut tree was destroyed by an insect that came here undetected.

A similar program years ago released millions of seemly harmless lady bugs to eat aphids that threatened southern Pecan trees. That program was both a success and a failure in that lady bugs accomplished their goal of destroying the aphids while taking over the area.

The fire ant is a classic example of another unwanted and destructive species that hitched a ride to the US aboard a cargo ship. By the time the Department of Agriculture realized the consequences, it was too late. In more than fifty years of fighting the rapid spread, nothing has deterred the ant’s conquest.

The same is true for the Africanized honey bee, except they were brought here intentionally as an experiment to see if honey production could be increased by cross breeding with own bee species. Some careless breeder on the west coast let a few escape and they multiplied like crazy.

Killer bees have been reported in Tennessee and Florida.

The Burmese Python takeover in the Florida Everglades is well documented. It eats anything it finds, including household pets, deer and alligators.

Just like fire ants, it’s a problem that will never go away.

And also, southern Florida is overrun with a giant lizard from Central America called a Tegus (He looks like a miniature crocodile and can outrun a man.)

They too, eat anything and everything, from small animals to garbage. They have flourished along the canals and waterways. Game Wardens trap them by the hundreds can’t get an upper hand.

And last but not least is the boll weevil. It appeared from nowhere in the thirties to desecrate cotton fields. There was no insecticide and no magic beetle to save the farmers. Downtown Enterprise Alabama even has a monument to the boll weevil. The bug changed farming in the south forever. Instead of trying to grow only cotton, farmers were forced to change to corn, wheat and peanuts. Reply to sunarticles@mail.com for comments.