Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Exclusive subscriber content

By Stephen Luntz

Subscribe for complete access to dozens of Browse articles and features each month.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Wasps Develop Ant Control
Invasive wasps in New Zealand have adapted to conflict with ants by picking the ants up and removing them from food.

Vespula vulgaris is considered one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, and its highest known density is in the beech forests of New Zealand’s South Island, far from its European home. Many species are in decline as a result of the wasp’s arrival, including parrots, which struggle to compete for honeydew.

Native ants, however, are providing more competition for the wasps as both like to feed on dead or dying insects on the forest floor. “Despite being 200 times smaller, the ants are able to hold their own by rushing at the wasps, spraying them with acid and biting them,” explains Dr Phil Lester of Victoria University, Wellington.

Lester set up baits of canned tuna to watch the ant/wasp interaction, and was astonished to see the wasps picking the ants up in their mandibles and dropping them a distance away. Although the ants are not injured by the fall they appear stunned, and do not always return to the bait.

The more ants present around the bait, the more the wasps engaged in the grab-and-carry routine. Interestingly, when ants were more common the wasps would carry them greater distances away from the bait, although Lester notes this is “maybe a 7 cm flight rather than a 3...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.