Monday, May 30, 2016

The government is releasing millions of parasitic wasps across 24 states

Wasps don't exactly win popularity contests, so why is the federal government releasing millions of them in 24 states — on purpose?

First of all, these aren't what you think of when you think of wasps. They're tiny, they aren't yellow, and they don't sting humans.

These wasps are actually on our side: a bug army deployed in a desperate attempt to save our dying trees.

The US Department of Agriculture hopes that these special wasps will be a key ally in the fight against emerald ash borers, invasive beetles whose larvae have destroyed trees across vast swaths of northern and eastern America in just a few decades.

Scientists don't want to douse half the country in pesticides, so they're trying a craftier approach by enlisting the emerald ash borers' natural enemies. This isn't the first time the government has tried this clever strategy, but the effort has never reached across so many states at once.

The USDA found four types of wasps to try against the emerald ash borers. They all lay their eggs inside borer eggs or larvae, killing them before they turn into wood-munching beetles. Government scientists spent some time figuring out how to make these wasps happy before their deployment and made sure that the wasps wouldn't go after anything besides emerald ash borers.

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