Wasps native to Minnesota may help researchers in the fight against emerald ash borer (EAB). The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and University of Minnesota (U of M) Extension are collaborating on the Wasp Watchers program, which uses volunteers to look for and monitor the smoky winged beetle bandits (Cerceris fumipennis).

The beetle bandits are ground nesting wasps that are docile and do not sting humans. Female wasps collect wood boring beetles, including EAB, to feed their young.

“Early detection of emerald ash borer is difficult,” said Jonathan Osthus, EAB Biocontrol Coordinator at the MDA. “By monitoring the wasps and collecting beetles they may have gathered, we can locate new EAB finds and gather more information to guide EAB management.”

The beetle bandits like hard-packed, sandy soil near human activity. That makes Minnesota’s baseball fields ideal conditions for their nests. Over 100 volunteers, called Wasp Watchers, have adopted and are monitoring beetle bandit colonies in baseball fields across the state. But more volunteers are needed.

“We’re asking volunteers to either search for new smoky winged beetle bandit sites in their community or adopt a known site and collect their beetle prey,” said Jennifer Schultz, Wasp Watchers Program Coordinator with U of M Extension. “Together, this wasp and Wasp Watchers can help us fight emerald ash borer.”

Minnesotans can join the Wasp Watchers program by going to their website, or by contacting Jennifer Schultz directly at 612-301-8310 or schultzj@umn.edu.