Macao paper wasp—transition to management

​​​​​​The Macao paper wasp is a large social wasp that has become established on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

On 3 September 2018, the National Biosecurity Management Group, comprising representatives from all Australian governments, determined that Macao Paper Wasp (Polistes olivaceus) was not technically feasible to eradicate from the Cocos (Keeling) Islands under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (the NEBRA).

The wasp has been subject to an eradication program since it was first detected in April 2015 on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The two year program encountered difficulties inconsistent with evidence from previous wasp infestations outside Australia, including an ability to breed rapidly and colonise dense forest. Many islands in the group are densely forested and challenging to access, which has made it difficult to effectively locate, delimit, treat and contain the wasp.

The Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities (DIRDC) will lead the ongoing management of the wasp on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. DIRDC is working with the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to develop a management program. In the meantime, current response treatment activities will continue.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will continue to be responsible for border control measures to mitigate the risk of introducing the wasp to other places. Any detection of Macao paper wasp in Australia but outside of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands may be treated as a new emergency biosecurity incident under the NEBRA.

What residents and visitors can do to manage Macao paper wasp

It is important that people living on or visiting the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are vigilant to the presence of Macao paper wasp. If you see any wasps or nests, do not approach them in case you disturb them—the wasp can be aggressive and has a painful sting. Instead, call the local pest controller, Jack Clunies-Ross on (08) 9162 7793.

If you are moving goods off any of these islands, it is important that you make sure that there are no wasps or nests on the goods or vessels. This will help prevent the wasp from infesting other places.

If you think you have seen this wasp in other parts of Australia, please call the national Exotic Plant Pest Hotline urgently, on 1800 084 881.

About the Macao paper wasp

Macao paper wasps are up to 24 millimetres long, deep yellow in colour with yellow antennae and legs.

They build large papery honeycomb nests in trees and on houses.

Macao paper wasps look like native paper wasps, which also live in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, but are bigger and form larger nests than native wasps. Sometimes these nests contain several hundred wasps and can be up to 50 centimetres across.

These wasps have a painful sting, and are more aggressive than native wasps, particularly when defending their nests.

More information

You can get more information about Macao paper wasp, including detailed photos, on the Pest and Disease Image Library.

A communique issued by the National Biosecurity Management Group in relation to its decision regarding Macao paper wasp can be accessed on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ website.

DIRDC has also issued a Community Bulletin about the transition to management of Macao paper wasp’s on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The bulletin can be accessed through DIRDC’s website.

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