Cerceris fumipennis

Figure 1 . Cerceris fumipennis with Dicerca prey.

Nearly half a million square kilometres of quarantine zones across ten states and two provinces surround the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), yet it continues to devastate eastern North America’s native ash trees, girdling and killing the host. EAB has proven difficult to detect using traditional methods of ground/visual surveys and sticky traps, both of which are costly, labour-intensive and at times destructive or impractical. Biosurveillance, using another species to survey for a pest species, offers an alternative approach for the detection and survey of EAB populations. We can now implement “biosurveillance” for EAB using a native wasp, Cerceris fumipennis (Say) in the solitary wasp family Crabronidae (Fig. 1). This wasp provisions its nests strictly with buprestid beetle prey, with a host range now including the recently introduced EAB (Fig. 2). 

Preliminary studies have shown that the wasp’s EAB detection skills far surpass any comparable human technology. Cerceris fumipennis has become a novel ally in our efforts to monitor for EAB in Canada and the United States.

Cerceris Identification

Figure 2 . Adult emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis).

Cerceris fumipennis, the only species of buprestid-hunting Crabronidae occurring in eastern North America, is found throughout the continental United States east of the Rockies: from Texas and Florida, north to Maine and Wyoming and is now known from more than twenty colonies of varying sizes in Canada (Fig. 3). The wasps are most often found nesting in open areas of hard-packed sandy soil surrounded by woody habitat suitable for their buprestid beetle prey. Ontario colonies are associated with somewhat disturbed sites compacted by human activity such, as baseball diamonds, parking areas, infrequently used roads, roadsides, foot paths and the soil around campfire pits.

Figure 3 . Cerceris fumipennis distribution in Quebec and Ontario, September 2008.












Cerceris fumipennis is distinguished by five conspicuous characteristics:

Figure 4 . Female Cerceris fumipennis. Note the single broad creamy yellow abdominal band. Figure 5 . Facial markings of a female Cerceris fumipennis. Figure 6 . Facial markings of a male Cerceris fumipennis.