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The war of wasps

Last Updated : 22 Feb 2018
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Gall wasp attacking giant reed 
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Gall wasp

We’re not normally fans of the wasp – they buzz, they sting, they ruin picnics.

This time, wasps are on the charge – or buzz – to protect our parks.

Auckland Council’s biosecurity team is releasing an ‘army’ of gall wasps at Birkenhead War Memorial Reserve to treat 6,000m2 of giant reed (Arundo donax) a pest plant that’s made the reserve its home.

The giant reed is a notoriously difficult pest to control, invading large areas of wetlands, streambanks and waste areas; it’s known to force out all other plants. Manaaki Whenua has developed the gall wasp as a biocontrol agent – they attack the stems of the reeds, causing them to swell and stop growing.

Wasps on the warpath

As part of Pest Free Auckland 2050 plan, Auckland Council biosecurity team is excited to be at the forefront of the pest control charge. Attacking the giant reed via gall wasps will change the area’s ecosystem gradually rather than abruptly like a herbicide or manual controls, benefiting and supporting our native species.

Monday will be the first gall wasp release in the Auckland region, taking place on the same site as the lacebug release last year to similarly control the Chinese privet.

Richard Hills, North Shore ward councillor, is enthusiastic about the release: “It’s really exciting Auckland Council is at the forefront of innovative biocontrol methods.

"Reducing pests like the giant reed will help native species thrive and take some pressure off local volunteers and council staff, who are working hard to improve our parks and reserves and contribute to a pest free Kaipātiki.”

Kaipatiki Local Board Chair Danielle Grant says the local board welcomes the initiative.

“We have had problems with weeds in the middle of the park for years, so this initiative should improve both connection and usability between the upper and lower parts of the park, which will be great,” she says.

The biosecurity team will buddy up with Community Facilities, the local Community Park Ranger and the Birkenhead War Memorial Park Volunteers to get native plants moved in quickly once the giant reed has been eliminated.

For all those – understandably – sting-shy folks out there, the wasps can’t sting, they don’t pose a risk to human safety and don’t compete with honey bees.

The release is taking place Monday 19 February in the Birkenhead War Memorial Reserve.

Check out more of Auckland Council’s Pest free projects and how you can help

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