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British wasps could solve NZ problems

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/08/2016

Scientists have a secret weapon in their war against wasps - other wasps.

German and common wasp problems cost New Zealand's primary industries around $130 million a year, but a parasitic wasp whose larvae feeds off their host before killing it is expected to change that.

It's an idea that has been used with some success since the 1980s, but scientists have discovered the wasps they've used in the past might speak the wrong language.

"In order for the Sphecophaga to go undetected in the nest, they may speak the correct language, or dialect, in order to fool their hosts," Landcare Research biocontrol scientist Ronny Groenteman said.

"Otherwise, wasps are so hygienic they will rapidly remove any foreign intruders they detect."

Wasps used in the past have been sourced from Switzerland, Israel and the US but Victoria University experts have discovered that New Zealand's dominant wasps have a British background.

Scientists are expected to travel to the UK next month to collect wasps so they can put their new theory to the test.

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