New biocontrol approved in beetle battle

28 February 2019

No need to unleash the dragons. A tiny wasp, Eadya daenerys, can now be used in New Zealand to combat the destructive eucalyptus tortoise beetle (Paropsis charybdis).

A decision-making committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved an application to release the parasitoid wasp in New Zealand.

This follows public submissions, and a public hearing earlier this year.

The application was lodged by Scion, the Crown Research Institute focused on research, science and technological development for the forestry and timber industries.

The EPA’s General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter says “Eucalypts are an important component of our forestry industry and in the landscape gum trees provide shelter, floral nectar resources for birds and bees, erosion control on steep land, and increased biodiversity.

“The Australian eucalyptus tortoise beetle causes significant damage to susceptible species of eucalypts.

“The deliberate use of natural enemies to reduce pest populations – known as biocontrol - can be a very cost effective and environmentally sustainable method of combatting pests, and reduce the need for chemical insecticides.

“The applicant estimates effective biocontrol by E. daenerys could prevent $7.2 million in losses per year from the eucalyptus tortoise beetle affecting eucalyptus tree growth and yield.”

New Zealand has no native beetles of the same type as the eucalyptus tortoise beetle, and no native eucalyptus species. Laboratory tests by Scion suggest the risks to non-target related native and beneficial beetles appear to be very low.

The E. daenerys wasp, which grows to just 6-10mm long, is harmless to humans.

Read the application and decision documents.

 

Eadya daenerys

Eadya daenerys, named after the fictional character Daenerys Targaryen - the Mother of Dragons, from Game of Thrones. (Photo courtesy of Ryan D. Ridenbaugh)