New UK wasp species a gardeners friend

Gardeners waging war on whitefly could soon be able to call in the cavalry – or should that be air support – in the form of wasps.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), scientists have discovered a UK species of wasp that preys on the pests that often attack brassicas and other ornamental varieties.

Natural History Museum expert Dr Andrew Polaszek spotted the Encarsia aleurochitonis emerging from an adult whitefly – the first recorded sighting of the tiny European species in the UK.

It is believed that the one millimetre-long wasp may have set up home in the UK a while ago, but has been overlooked due to its size.

While most humans are wary of wasps due to their potential to deliver a nasty sting, Dr Polaszek revealed that they do a lot of unseen good work.

"There are dozens of parasitoid wasps right under our noses keeping a lot of pests under control without us knowing theyre there," he said.

"They provide an ecosystem service – and its not until things get out of balance that were aware of what theyre doing."

Meanwhile, the RHS has launched a new research project aimed at studying the role of plants in increasing the biodiversity of gardens.