Wasps are costing New Zealand’s primary industries at least $10 million a year, experts say.
Serious concern by scientists about the harm wasps are causing across the country has resulted in tactical working group considering whether more action needs to be taken to eradicate them.
The Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation(DOC) this week put out a tender for a study on the economic impact of wasps.
It would determine the scale of the problem and ascertain if increased research funding into control methods should be prioritised.
Evidence gathered so far suggested they cost primary industries, mainly beekeepers, at least $10m annually.
Landcare Research scientist Darren Ward said wasps affected several sectors.
“By the time you put other sectors in, it will add up to many millions every year,” he said. “It’s costing us a lot more than people realise.”
The common and german wasps were detrimental to the country’s native species, such as kaka, as well as the enjoyment of natural areas, Ward said.
In honeydew beech forests, there were up to 350 wasps per square metre, or between 30 to 40 nests per hectare. Every nest was home to thousands of wasps.
Ward estimated 1300 people annually sought medical attention for wasp stings, but many more were stung. It was critical to fund more research into the best way to deal with the pest as it appeared the numbers were on the rise, he said.
“One of the reasons there are so many wasps is we have a fairly mild climate and there is no real natural enemies of wasps so there is nothing to control them.”
Biological controls, such as introducing a natural predator of the wasp and wasp baits had not worked effectively in the past, but he said it was important they did not give up.
DOC entomologist Eric Edwards said there had not been a major focus on funding for wasp control, but he suspected the problem was more substantial than people realised.
“It’s a biosecurity issue not just for nature, but for other industries such as beekeepers and forestry and others that come into contact with wasps.”
He hoped the study would be finished by the end of year.
– © Fairfax NZ News
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