Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Malfoy the wasp no longer unknown to Science

Malfoy the wasp no longer unknown to Science

It’s one of our least-loved insects, with a particularly gruesome reproductive technique, but University of Auckland doctoral student Tom Saunders is on a mission to rescue our native wasps from their bad name.
It’s one of our least-loved insects, with a particularly gruesome reproductive technique, but University of Auckland doctoral student Tom Saunders is on a mission to rescue our native wasps from their bad name.

Unlike their introduced cousins the German wasp, or Asian paper wasp, New Zealand’s native parasitoid wasps do not sting and do not live in colonies. There are thought to be 3000 endemic species in New Zealand of which only around a third are known to science.

In his efforts to champion insects most New Zealanders have almost no knowledge of, Tom has scientifically described a species of native wasp and named it after a character from the Harry Potter series.

“I used the name Lusius malfoyi because Malfoy is a character in the books with a bad reputation who is ultimately redeemed and I’m trying to redeem the reputation of our native wasps,” he says.

But parasitoid wasps do have a gruesome reproductive technique, injecting eggs into the bodies of caterpillars with the larvae feeding inside the caterpillar’s body as the host slowly dies.

Tom decided to work on improving methods for wasp capture during his Masters degree because, he says, we may be losing endemic species in New Zealand without knowing it.

“The big problem is lack of data, we do not know what species we have, how many there might be or what their host species are, so they can’t be included in conservation planning.

“Much of my work in capturing them for my research was at the edge of the Waitakere Ranges so they can be found even in people’s backyards but most people don’t know anything about them.

“If we don’t put more resources into their taxonomy, we could be in danger of losing wasp species without even knowing it.”

Parasitoid wasps are successfully used as environmental tools in New Zealand, with introduced species used to control a range of horticultural pests. Tom’s doctoral research aims to test the viability of introducing a parasitoid wasp to control brown marmorated stink bug.

“The stink bug has recently been classified as a top environmental threat by the Ministry for Primary Industries and real effort is being made to keep it out of the country. Where it has spread, in places like Europe and North America, it is causing real destruction and economic cost.”


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Westpac NZ: Warns About Sophisticated New Scam
Westpac NZ is warning New Zealanders about a sophisticated new scam that involves a fake Westpac investment prospectus.
The prospectus is formatted to resemble a Westpac document and includes professional-looking imagery... More>>

Campaign For NZ Coastal Tankers : Says Fuel Security At Risk

Three unions representing New Zealand shipping crews are mounting a united campaign to protect New Zealand’s fuel security and save New Zealand coastal tankers... More>>

Tourism: Travel Bubble With Cook Islands Resumes

Cook Islands tourism restarts today, ending a five-month border closure due to COVID-19. Graeme West, General Manager Australasia for Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, said today’s first flight of quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to the Cook Islands is very significant... More>>

Insurance Council of New Zealand: September South Island Windstorm Cost $36.5 M Raises 2021 Extreme Weather Claims Total To $321.6 M

Gale force winds and storms between 9 and 13 September 2021 resulted in insurers supporting communities to the tune of $36.5 m. This is a significant rise, of $16.7 m, on preliminary figures for the event and lifts the end of year total for all extreme weather events in 2021 to $321.6 m... More>>

Statistics: Building Consents Hit New Highs In November
There were a record 48,522 new homes consented in the year ended November 2021, Stats NZ said today. This was up 26 percent compared with the year ended November 2020... More>>

Fonterra: Revises Milk Collection Forecast
Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited today revised the forecast for its 2021/22 New Zealand milk collections to 1,500 million kilograms of milk solids (kgMS), down from its opening forecast of 1,525 million kgMS... More>>