July 28, 2011

Battle of the bugs

In the war the state expects to wage against the tree-killing emerald ash borer, a native wasp has a prominent role on the front lines.

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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The Cerceris fumipennis wasp, which is native to Maine, was found nesting Wednesday at a Freeport baseball field.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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The wasp is the best weapon that researchers have for determining whether the tree-killing emerald ash borer has made it to Maine.

Additional Photos Below



Is native to Maine and many other states.

Is about one-half-inch long.

Has dark, smoky-brown wings, a cream or yellowish band on its second abdominal segment and three large cream or yellowish spots on its face.

Lives in colonies of three to 300.

Does not sting humans.

Digs a nest in the ground.

Stocks the nest with metallic-colored buprestid beetles, including the emerald ash borer.

Builds nests in hard-packed, sandy soil with sparse vegetation and full sunshine within 200 yards of a wooded area.

Prefers baseball diamonds, school playing fields, campsites and trail and road edges.



Is a small, metallic-green beetle about one-half-inch long.

Was first detected in the United States in Michigan in 2002.

Has spread to 20 states and Canada.

Hatches larvae that tunnel under ash tree bark, disrupting the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients.

Eats foliage in its adult form but does little damage.

Attacks and kills all ash species.


• More information on the Project Canopy wasp-watcher network is available at
www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/fhm/pages/CercerisVolunteers.htm or by contacting Colleen Teerling at the Maine Forest Service Insect and Disease Lab, 168 State House Station, Augusta ME 04333.

Since the project began, two new insect species and an entire genus have been discovered in Maine.

While trees in Asia are resistant to the emerald ash borer, trees in the United States are not. Current eradication methods include expensive insecticides and selective tree cutting, which can contain the beetles in concentrated areas.

Kathy Bouchard, a volunteer, said she plans to search for a wasp colony in her Scarborough neighborhood.

"What is sad is they don't sting, but people may not realize they are beneficial," Bouchard said.

Lewiston math and science teacher Joan Savage also showed up for the training. She said adopting a wasp colony would be fun for her students.

"They get disappointed when we tell them we don't want to find the invasive species. This is something they can look for," Savage said.

Teerling said the wasp appears to prefer emerald ash borers to any other prey. But like much about the wasp, scientists do not know exactly why. The species is so understudied it has no common name. So Teerling and her colleagues are lobbying the Entomological Society of America with their proposal.

"We are calling it the smoky-winged beetle bandit," Teerling said.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:



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Additional Photos

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Colleen Teerling, an entomologist with the Maine Forest Service, shows an example of the damage that an emerald ash borer can do to an ash tree, eventually killing it. The beetle is much easier to control if its presence is detected early. “It has the potential of wiping out every species of ash on the continent,” Teerling said.

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Jan Santerre, director of the emerald ash borer detection project, and volunteer Kathy Bouchard of Scarborough, right, set traps over wasp nests Wednesday on a baseball diamond at Freeport Middle School. The traps are used to collect the prey that the wasps are bringing to the nest. They’ll know the emerald ash borer has arrived in Maine if one shows up in the traps.

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The emerald ash borer

The Associated Press

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