Parasitic wasps to battle emerald ash borer

A conservation agency is releasing two types of wasps in Ontario to combat the destructive emerald ash borer that's been decimating the ash tree population in the province since 2002.

Emerald ash borer beetles have plagued Ontario's ash tree population since 2002

The emerald ash borer is believed to have arrived in North America through shipping crates involved in international trading. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources via AP)

An epic battle between wasps and beetles could determine the survival of Ontario's ash trees. 

South Nation Conservation, an agency established under the Conservation Authorities Act of Ontario, is releasing two types of parasitic wasps within controlled areas to combat the destructive emerald ash borer beetle that's been decimating the ash tree population in the province since 2002. 

In an effort to manage the invasive beetle and preserve biodiversity, the conservation group will release wasps every two weeks at one of its properties along Highway 138 near Moose Creek, Ont., about 70 kilometres east of Ottawa. 

The wasps are 1 millimetre in size and harmless to humans, but have a high affinity for the emerald ash borer. One type of the wasp is known to go after the borer's eggs and the other prefers the larvae. Both the wasps and beetle are originally from Asia. 

After two years of the bugs duking it out, South Nation Conservation will look at the population of the wasps and beetles. After three years, some ash trees will be cut down to be examined for larvae.

The cost of dealing with the emerald ash borer could become hefty. The Canadian Forest Service estimates that costs for treatment, removal and replacement of trees affected by the emerald ash borer in all Canadian municipalities could reach $2 billion over a 30-year period.

Experts consider the parasitic wasps to be the the only hope in saving the ash tree from the emerald ash borer. They are being used throughout Ontario and Quebec to combat the invasive and destructive insect.