'It's knocked 'em for six': Invasive wasps take massive hit in Nelson region

MARION VAN DIJK/Stuff.co.nz

Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry congratulates the community and the Nelson Mail on its Wasp Wipeout campaign at a celebration day at St Arnaud.

This marks the end of the Nelson Mail's Wasp Wipeout campaign for this season. We'd like to thank everybody who read the stories, contributed to the project, volunteered time, and took action to help rid the Nelson region of invasive wasps. The project has been a great success, but the mission's not over yet. We'll be back next summer for round two.

Nests have collapsed, populations have been slashed, and the unnerving drone of invasive wasps has been silenced.

That's the word from Department of Conservation staff who have led wasp control operations in national parks across the Nelson region over the past month, partly funded by supporters of the Wasp Wipeout project.
 

 

Wasp bait was applied to hundreds of yellow stations in Abel Tasman, Nelson Lakes and Kahurangi national parks during the annual blitz on the invasive pests.

There were also Wasp Wipeout operations in other recreation areas, including mountain bike and walking tracks, across the region.

Wasp Wipeout supporters contributed more than $55,000 to help fund wasp control operations this season and others volunteered to help.

MARION VAN DIJK./Stuff.co.nz

The Department of Conservation and Project Janszoon wasp control at Abel Tasman started, partly funded by the Wasp Wipeout campaign.

DOC biodiversity ranger John Henderson, who led control in the Abel Tasman, said invasive wasp numbers had taken "a pretty good hit" since the bait was deployed last month.

"It's knocked 'em for six."

Post-control monitoring had found the decline of wasps was in line with previous years that saw reductions of between 95 and 98 per cent.

Fairfax Media Nelson regional editor Victoria Guild, left, and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry prepare to apply wasp ...
MARION VAN DIJK

Fairfax Media Nelson regional editor Victoria Guild, left, and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry prepare to apply wasp bait Vespex on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.

"A nest that was pumping 100 wasps per minute is now zero or one per two minutes sort of thing," he said.

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"You don't hear the buzz that you do pre-wasp control."

The entire coastal Great Walk track was baited as well as the Falls River block behind Torrent Bay, Holyoake track, Canaan Downs car park and Adele Island.

DOC Nelson Lakes senior biodiversity ranger Nik Joice said control operations around Lake Rotoiti and St Arnaud have resulted in a noticeable decline in wasp numbers.

"There definitely seems to be hardly any wasps in the blocks that we've done."

He said the annual control provided relief for native birds and insects that "get an absolute hammering" when wasp numbers are high.

It allowed the birds to feed on the beech honeydew, which the wasps eat, and gives them a chance to put on weight and get in good condition for the winter, Joice said.

"A lot of those first-year chicks probably don't have much of a chance of getting through unless we get rid of those wasps."

Joice said the Wasp Wipeout campaign, a collaboration between the Nelson Mail, DOC, the Tasman Environmental Trust and the community, had raised awareness of "what's going on in our nice, peaceful forests".

"Our native species are getting attacked from all angles by all sorts of things," he said.

"It's really neat having anything where the community gets involved. It's not just DOC's problem, it's everybody's problem. It's great having such a wide range of people that are interested in trying to come up with a solution."

Insect ecologist Richard Toft, who developed the Vespex bait used during Wasp Wipeout, said the campaign had helped to generate interest in wasp control across the country.
 
Richard Toft in his laboratory in Nelson.

"We've had a lot of groups and people from other areas of the country who were keen to have some sort of Wasp Wipeout going in their own area," he said.

"I think there are extraordinary benefits in terms of being able to support control in areas where there just isn't a budget. It's enabled wasp control to get into a much wider area particularly in those zones which are public spaces for everyone to enjoy."

Friends of Flora chairman Peter Adams said volunteers supported DOC staff to bait the trails from Flora car park in Kahurangi National Park to Mount Arthur, including some of the side trails.

"I've heard reports that wasps are definitely down," he said.

Operations were also undertaken on the Wangapeka Track, Wairoa Valley, Hacket Track, Riwaka Resurgence, Dun Mountain, Marsden Valley and other popular sites by DOC, other conservation groups and volunteers.

Groups that got involved include Friends of Rotoiti, Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, Project Janszoon, Nelson Mountain Bike Club, Nelson Nature and more.

 - Stuff

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