URI scientists fight invasive tree-killing beetle with beetle-killing wasp

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HOPKINTON, R.I. (WPRI) — As invasive tree-killing beetles continue to overspread the state, scientists from the University of Rhode Island (URI) are now fighting back.

Emerald Ash Borer (photo courtesy URI)

The Emerald Ash Borer was first found in Rhode Island in 2018, but it’s first United States discovery was in Michigan. Now that the beetle is in our state, mature ash trees are more likely to die soon.

URI entomologist Lisa Tewksbury and her team are looking into ways to preserve the younger ash trees as part of a quality control experiment.

The team of Entomologists is now deploying three species of parasitic wasps from Asia. The hopes are that they will prey upon the Emerald Ash Borer.

“We are resigned to the fact that we’re going to lose most of our larger ash trees, but by doing this biological control effort we’re hoping the wasps can protect the smaller trees so we’ll have some ash left in the future,” Tewksbury said.

Ash trees make up just 2% of forests in Rhode Island but are found across the state in parks and along streets — two notable locations are in Providence and Newport.

The Emerald Ash Borer has been spotted in Hopkinton, but there are a total of five locations where the wasps are being released, including Burrillville and Cumberland.

They are being raised in a lab in Michigan and are shipped to Rhode Island to become adult wasps inside blocks of ash wood.

Lisa and her team will then deliver these wasps to areas where the beetles have been found.

Starting next year, an effort will begin to determine if the wasps are established and doing their job.

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