Oak Creek votes down wasp release

Introduction of parasitic insects intended to counter emerald ash borer

Jan. 22, 2013

Oak Creek - Citing concerns over public safety and the introduction of an unknown species, the Oak Creek Common Council voted 4 to 1 Jan. 15 to deny a DNR wasp release.

The denial came after a presentation by DNR plant, pest and disease specialist Bill McNee showing how the wasps would help curb the emerald ash borer population.

Many council members expressed concern over public health and the introduction of a new species to the neighborhood. They recommended that the health department review any human impacts before approving a release.

"I really wasn't sure which way to go," said Dan Jackubczyk, the sole alderman in support of the release. "I didn't like the idea of releasing another species. I wasn't too crazy about them releasing it, but the emerald ash is devastating."

In the presentation, McNee called for a release of 1,000 wasps of each of three species that target the emerald ash borer's eggs and larvae.

The three species originate in china and are stingless, small wasps, the largest of which measuring at roughly ¼ inch.

McNee said the wasps stings only other insects.

"It's not really stinging like a big yellow wasp would, but more of sticking their egg-laying tube into the emerald ash borer's egg."

He added that the main difference between these wasps and other species was that these wasps are parasites, not predators. The proposed wasps would live only in the canopy of trees affected by the EAB.

According to McNee, the wasps have been known to kill 50 to 90 percent of the EAB population in China.

The DNR has released the wasps in roughly 40 to 50 sites in the U.S. since 2010, first releasing them in Michigan. The introduction sites have been along the upper Midwest and Northeast states. Roughly 10 percent of the EAB population's eggs and larva has been attacked since the introduction.

"This is not the magic bullet that's going to solve the EAB problem," McNee said. "It's one of the tools that will help curb the population. People are still encouraged to use pesticides."

The DNR targeted southeast Wisconsin as the next area to release the wasps. McNee gave the same presentation to the Franklin Public Works Board the same night he gave the proposal to Oak Creek. The Franklin Common Council will decide whether or not to approve a wasp release in a February meeting.

According to McNee, the species will eventually come to Oak Creek. He said that due to releases in close areas such as Chicago, it would only be a matter of time before the wasps migrate to Oak Creek.

For more information on the EAB, visit emeraldashborer.wi.gov.

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