Science-- there's something for everyone

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eavesdropping on insect pests


Insect pests can be a huge problem both in the home and in food storage and processing areas. Although there are many methods of combating these little invaders, the entomologists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) wanted a better way to monitor those efforts. To that end, the researchers devised a way to listen to insects’ movements.

Richard Mankin of ARS and his colleagues from ARS, North Carolina State University and the University of Florida built a monitoring system that collects infrared, acoustic and vibrational signals. Those signals correspond to typical insect movements (running, wriggling or scraping across a surface). The data can be sent to users’ laptops, thus eliminating the need to frequently check problem areas. Storage facilities like warehouses or grain elevators can be remotely monitored for insect infestation.

Thus far, the scientists have successfully located and identified five test insects: rice weevil, red flour beetles and drugstore beetles (agricultural pests), and German cockroaches and bed bugs (household pests). In case you’re interested, red flour beetles (pictured above) tend to wriggle, cockroaches run or crawl, and bed bugs scrape along.