Novel tools, technologies and strategies need to be deployed to eradicate biotic threats.

This research is Active
A honey bee with parasitic Varroa mites. This bee is also suffering the effects of the 'Deformed wing virus' which is spread by Varroa. This heavily infected bee will never be able to fly. Image thanks to Phil Lester.

Overview Te Tirohanga Whānui

Many of our current pest control strategies have unintended and detrimental effects on the surrounding environment. For example, heavy reliance on pesticides can result in non-target kill of native or beneficial invertebrates.

We need new tools to effectively control pests while avoiding these unwanted side-effects.

The ‘Novel Tools & Strategies – Invertebrates’ team aims to develop a new, landscape scale, invertebrate pest management tool by 2024.

While working towards this goal, they are partnering with iwi and hapū to understand how new pest control tools and enhance kaitiakitanga and promote tino rangatiratanga.

Highlights Ngā Mahi Whakahirahira

  • A survey of key stakeholders in April and May 2020 showed that most people wanted invertebrate eradication research to focus on wasps – particularly those from the Vespula
  • The same survey showed the honeybee pest mite Varroa is a valuable research target, because of its huge negative impact on the honey industry and other industries that rely on pollinators.
  • Four PhD students have started research into:
    • How gene silencing could be used to control the parasitic Varroa
    • Next generation Varroa
    • How gene drives might be used for Polistes wasp control.
    • How gene editing might be used for German wasp control.
  • Dr Sara Moylan and Dr Ocean Mercier supervised five summer interns between Victoria University of Wellington and Worcester Polytech Institute, USA. The interns conducted user tests and evaluations of ESAT, an ecological management tool.

This work building on previous BioHeritage research into wasp eradication.

Co-leads Ngā kaiārahi ngātahi

Phil Lester

Phil Lester

Phil Lester

Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington
Ocean Mercier

Ocean Mercier

Ocean Mercier

Ngāti Porou
Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington
Bioheritage Staff Symon Palmer

Symon Palmer

Symon Palmer

Ngāi Te Rangi
Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington

Team Members Ngā kaimahi

  • Joshua Gilligan; University of Otago
  • Gemma McLaughlin; University of Otago
  • Zoe Smeele; Victoria University of Wellington
  • Rose McGruddy; Victoria University of Wellington

Research Partners Ngā hoa pātui rangahau

Resource outputs from this programme


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The goal to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050 has drawn strong praise and criticism, but these critiques have focused largely on economic or technological…
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Can immune gene silencing via dsRNA feeding promote pathogenic viruses to control the globally invasive Argentine ant?

Pest control methods that can target pest species with limited environmental impacts are a conservation and economic priority. Species-specific pest control using RNA interference is…
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Gene silencing for invasive paper wasp management: Synthesized dsRNA can modify gene expression but did not affect mortality

Invasive paper wasps such as Polistes dominula are a major pest and problem for biodiversity around the globe. Safe and highly targeted methods for the control of…
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