NZ innovation shines in war against wasps
In 2015, Nelson-based Richard Toft won a WWF Conservation Innovation Award for the development of Vespex®, a protein-based wasp bait. Vespex® has been credited as the most effective tool for wide-area control of wasps and a "real game-changer" in the battle against both common and German wasps.
The $25,000 grant allowed Mr Toft and his team to move on from making small amounts of bait for research to commercial production, and trial systems for use by community conservation groups.
Open from 26 September to 14 October, WWF-New Zealand’s 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards (CIA) are designed to seek out and reward innovation for those on the frontline of conservation. All ideas are welcome and entries can be submitted via wwf-nz.crowdicity.com
The arrival of Vespex® could not have come soon enough for some users, with many areas of New Zealand experiencing very high numbers of wasps in 2016.
Introduced wasps can reach extremely high populations in New Zealand, and are a major threat to native ecosystems through predation of native invertebrates and competition for natural resources, such as honeydew. They also present a significant hazard to conservation workers. Wasps cause an estimated $120 million damage a year in disruption to bee pollination and lost honey production.
Mr Toft, an expert in wasp ecology, said the bait had been 25 years in the making, with development continuing.
“The bait contains a very potent, slow-acting insecticide, and the bait is completely unattractive to bees,” he said.
“Wasps take the bait from bait stations to feed their larvae, so the nests are destroyed without us needing to find them.”
In conjunction with the Department of Conservation and BASF New Zealand, a stewardship system has been developed that has enabled Vespex® to be accessed by a wide range of users, including public and private sanctuaries, conservation groups, councils, beekeepers, foresters, farmers, tourism enterprises, recreation groups, vineyards, and orchards.
“People wanting to become approved users of Vespex® can access the training and registration process via the Merchento website,” Mr Toft said.
“Uptake was excellent in the first season, with well over 1000 approved users registered and Vespex® being sent throughout the country, from Kaitaia in the north, to Stewart Island in the south.”
WWF-New Zealand is now searching the country again—from research labs to garden sheds and everywhere in between—for new CIA ideas that could change the face of conservation. Prize packages of $25,000 will be awarded to each of the three winning entries. The Awards are supported by The Tindall Foundation.