Ecological Harm in Hawaii: Invasive Wasps with New Life Histories disrupt native Hawaiian wildlife

ScienceDaily (2009-08-14) — A switch from annual to multiyear colonies and a willingness to feed just about any prey to their young have allowed invasive yellowjacket wasps to disrupt native populations of insects and spiders on two Hawaiian islands, a new study has found.

“They’re consuming anything from geckos to shearwater to tree lice to more juicy items that you would expect them to eat, like caterpillars. They’re just like little vacuum cleaners,” said Erin Wilson, who recently completed her doctorate at UC San Diego and is the lead author of the study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

The sheer numbers are changing the ecology of Hawaii’s endangered ohia woodlands and subalpine shrublands. “It’s not just what they’re killing,” Wilson said. “They’re also collecting great amounts of nectar, drawing down the resources for anything else that might want to feed on it whether it’s native insects or birds like the Hawaiian honeycreepers.”

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