Exotic wasps which have the potential to affect visitors enjoying campsites and walking tracks are being targeted using a new and revolutionary wasp bait.
DOC is working with campground managers and volunteers to target wasp populations in ten high-use areas of public conservation land including around Lakes Tikitapu, Okataina and Tarawera.
Vespex is a protein bait targeted only at wasps and is not attractive to bees. It was successfully piloted at five public conservation land sites in the South Island last year, reducing wasp activity at those sites by more than 95%.
“Ideally, wasps would be treated before the summer season begins but for Vespex to be used successfully, it needs to be used at a particular time during the wasp feeding cycle which doesn’t come around until February to March”, explains DOC Ranger Caraline Abbott.
“With the help of volunteers and camp managers, we’ve placed protein filled feeding stations in high-use areas and we’re visiting these stations regularly to pin-point the time when the wasps enter the protein-feeding time of their life cycle.”
Once wasps start feeding on protein, Vespex is placed in the feeding stations and taken back to the wasp nest by wasps which have been attracted to the bait. Any unused bait is removed in the days following the application.
“While our main reason for targeting recreation, areas is to improve public safety and enjoyment at popular visitor sites, we are also helping biodiversity by giving birds and insects some relief from the pest wasp competition as well”, explains Mrs Abbott.
Wasps pose a significant threat to human health with more than 1300 people a year seeking medical treatment for wasp stings and many more wasp stings are unreported. In addition to this, wasps threaten our native bird species, competing for food sources and have also been known to kill chicks as they emerge from their eggs. High densities put increased pressure on native invertebrates and they attack honey bees, raiding the honey from their nests.
Until Vespex use was approved, DOC and other agencies were only able respond to the wasp threat by locating and destroying individual nests, which was dangerous and time consuming. Vespex use allows wasps to be controlled over a wider area because they take the insecticide back to their nests to feed their larvae. Many nests can be destroyed from a single bait station.
The project has great support from the local community with campground managers, community groups and other community members giving up their time to help with all aspects of the project. Volunteer contributions will be the key to the success of this project.
Vespex can be purchased by the public for private use through Merchento.