Mission: Biomonitoring with Wasps

Philip Careless

Research Question

Where are Maine’s native digger-wasps (Cerceris fumipennis)?
Are they finding the invasive emerald ash borer?

You're invited

The University of Maine and the Maine Forest Service need their fellow Mainers' help locating a beneficial digger wasp (Cerceris fumipennis). This wasp is helping us locate a very serious invasive pest - the emerald ash borer (EAB).

More about this species

Cerceris fumipennis is a native, non-stinging, ground-nesting wasp that collects beetles in the jewel/wood-boring beetle family - a family of beetles that includes some of our native beetles, as well as the invasive emerald ash borer.

Philip Careless

These wasps nest in groups that can be 5-400 individuals strong (each individual wasp maintaining her own nest). We say "her nest" because it is only the females who nest and hunt, and that males are very short-lived and rarely seen. C. fumipennis is being used to help us detect EAB infestations in over 10 U.S states and also in our neighboring Canada!
The more nesting sites for this wasp we know about, the larger area of land we can monitor in Maine to help keep EAB out. Again, rest assured- not only is this ground-nesting wasp a large help in our fight against an invasive, but it also is completely incapable of biting or stinging people, and it's even kind of cute!

Check out this news clip featuring the Vital Signs expert reviewer, Tawny Virgilio, talking about Ceceris!

Nest site, T. Virgilio (2010)

Mission steps

1. Access identification resources from the Maine Forest Service's website.

    Vital Signs species card coming soon!

2. Print a Upland Species Survey datasheet.

3. Travel to your local elementary, middle, high-school, or community baseball fields, open dirt roads, gravel pits (buddy system with an adult please!), and other places with hard-packed, sandy soil areas in full sunlight.

4. Look for the wasps, or wasp nests in the ground.

    When you take your evidence photos, be sure to hold a ruler or a pencil up the ground nests for size reference. That's really helpful for confirming your observation.

5. Go to your My Vital Signs page (link at top right) to add your “Cerceris found" or "Cerceris not found" observation

6. Adopt a colony. Maine Forest Service entomologist, Colleen Teerling, would like you to adopt your own nest to monitor.

    Take a look at this website and see what it takes to adopt and monitor a nest
    email Colleen at the Maine Forest Service.

Why this Mission matters

Marked C. fumipennis, T. Virgilio

C. fumipennis wasps are a great tool to help us locate the EAB which threatens Maine’s ash trees (EAB kill healthy trees by boring through their nutrient-rich tissues and effectively girdling them). In fact, this native digger-wasp is more of an expert at locating this type of beetle (jewel beetles) than humans are!

Emerald ash borer stands to cost U.S cities and suburban areas billions of dollars in tree removal and replacement, not to mention severe habitat destruction and alteration of natural ecosystems. Specifically in Maine, EAB threatens the native Wabanaki tradition of basket-weaving which requires ash trees.

If EAB comes to Maine, it will have a large negative impact on many people, communities, and native ecosystems. We need to detect it as early as we can to save as many ash trees as possible!

Want to know and do more?

Maine Forest Service Wasp Biosurveillance site

Contact Colleen at the Maine Forest Service and let her know what you've found!

More on Cerceris
A site with a large amount of information about the wasp, along with contact information for other officials leading up the effort in other states (including NH, MA, etc.)