Kiwi researcher hopes to give native wasp a new – magical – name
A New Zealand researcher is tired of the bad reputation suffered by our native wasps. Many Kiwis confuse the native species for the common German wasps that offer a painful sting and cost the economy as much as $130 million every year.
However, as University of Auckland doctoral student Tom Saunders points out, the New Zealand native species don’t live in colonies, and they don’t even sting.
That’s why Mr Saunders is attempting to fix the wasp’s reputation, and he has come up with a novel way of doing so – literally.
He has chosen one of the more widespread of New Zealand’s endemic wasp species and has named it Lusius malfoyi after a character in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. In the world-famous novels, Lucius Malfoy is presented as a minor villain throughout the series, until in the final book, he and his family turn their backs on the major villain, Voldemort.
Mr Saunders believes the name is fitting, as there are certainly plenty of ‘menacing’ traits about the wasp. For example, to breed, this wasp injects its eggs into caterpillars, so the larvae can feed on its host.
That said, as far as wasps go, the Lusius malfoyi is still fairly harmless at the end of the day, and now New Zealanders have a fun new way of remembering its name.
Mr Saunders took an interest in wasps and spent his Masters degree working on ways to improve ways to catch them, as the current problem is that there isn’t much data around New Zealand’s wasp populations. This means it’s hard to track them, or to know if their numbers are rising or declining.
Even if wasps aren’t something you’d like to encounter, there are plenty of other wonderful native and endemic species that we meet during our nature tours from Auckland!
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist