Oregon State scientists set to release wasp that targets invasive fruit fly

Scientists are getting ready to release a new type of wasp in Oregon, and the insects will be working with humans.
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 6:07 AM PDT
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CORVALLIS, Ore. (KPTV) - Two years after murder hornets made their way into the Pacific Northwest, scientists are getting ready to release a new type of wasp in Oregon, but this time the insects will be working with humans.

Later this month, agricultural scientists at Oregon State University will release a parasitic wasps into the public to fight off an invasive species of fruit fly called spotted wing drosophila.

Those fruit flies are causing a very expensive problem for farmers, ruining half a billion dollars a year in cherries, blueberries, and wine grapes.

“This will have a huge impact,” said Vaughn Walton, OSU Extension entomologist and professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Spotted wing drosophila is very difficult to control. It’s got a very, very high reproduction rate with many generations per year. Because of that, when using pesticides, they have to be applied constantly, sometimes two or three times a week. Growers are really interested and are excited about a biological control that will work along with cultural management tools to decrease SWD and not cost them any money. It’s a natural resource available to them. We think this is going to change things.”

The wasps will be released throughout the Willamette Valley, tracking down the fruit flies and killing them. According to OSU graduate student, Ryan Chave, the wasp kills the fruit fly by laying eggs inside the insect and when the wasp hatches, its larva consumes its prey.

Scientists said the tiny wasps only eat fruit flies, so it’s not a danger to other animals and insects in Oregon.