Researcher hoping to win moth battle

Feb 21, 2002, vol.23, no.4
By Christine Hearne

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SFU entomologist Wade Jenner is trying to stop the spread of a moth that is destroying many of the ornamental cherry trees in British Columbia, Washington and into Oregon.

Jenner, a masters student in biological sciences and part of the behavioral ecological research group, is carrying out his research with the aid of a GREAT award.

The award is given to graduate student researchers who have found an industry collaborator who believes their work has enough practical application that they are willing to provide funding.

Jenner spends his summers in Europe collecting the moth, called the cherry bark tortrix. The cherry bark tortrix is small and inconspicuous and blends almost perfectly into the bark of ornamental cherry trees. It lays eggs that turn into caterpillars that live under the bark and may lead to the death of the tree.

“I work out of northwest Switzerland and have collection sites throughout the Rhine Valley in France and Germany,” says Jenner. “We dig the caterpillars out of the tree bark, take them back to the lab and then rear them.”

Jenner wants to find out why the tortrix, which is becoming a huge problem here, is not much of a problem in Europe. He and his international research team think it's partly a result of natural predators, parasitic wasps, which destroy the tortrix in its damaging stage.

“In Europe wasps destroy approximately 22 per cent of the tortrix. Here it's between one and two per cent,” says Jenner. “What we want to do is find out if the wasps we have here are the same as the ones in Europe and if we could use them as natural predators to solve the problem.”

But Jenner says that so far the wasps found here have not been positively identified as the European species. “We've sent some to Europe for identification, but so far we haven't had an answer back.”

Jenner's industry collaborator is John Mathies of Cannor Nurseries in Chillliwack. “They were interested in the research because they sell plants in their stock that could be attacked by the cherry bark tortrix,” adds Jenner.

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