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Seafood diet could help curb New Zealand's wasp problem | Updated: 2014-02-18 15:42

New Zealand's native mussels might provide the key to controlling exotic wasp invaders, researchers said Tuesday.

A breakthrough in controlling wasps that harm native fauna in New Zealand's beech forests came when two scientists from the government's Plant & Food Research institute were on a fishing trip.

"We couldn't help noticing how attracted the wasps were to the mussels we were using as fish bait," project leader Dr. Ashraf El- Sayed said in a statement.

The research team investigated the smell produced by the mussels and identified a mixture of compounds that were highly attractive to the wasps and could form the basis for a new generation of control methods.

"Vespid wasps are highly abundant in New Zealand's indigenous beech forests, due, in part, to the vast supply of honeydew, which is also a major food source for native birds and insects," said El- Sayed.

"Traditionally, wet cat food has been used as bait, but this degrades rapidly and has to be replaced often. By identifying new compounds that attract wasps, we can control them more effectively. Using compounds from New Zealand mussels may provide a sustainable method for controlling these insect invaders."

New Zealand has several types of native wasps, but four introduced species are classed as pests.

Wasps have also been known to prey on native insects and kill newly hatched birds.

They are also a worry to tourism operators, according to the Department of Conservation.

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