Study shows dogs can identify egg masses with up to 95% accuracy.
(Philadelphia) – A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine train odor-detecting dogs to sniff spotted lantern eggs before they hatch.
The invasive insect, which causes rotting of trees and vines and promotes mold growth, has posed a significant threat to the Commonwealth’s hardwood and agricultural industries since their discovery in 2014.
Scientists hope the new tactic will help neutralize the threat.
“With up to 300 million scent receptors in their noses, properly trained dogs are uniquely positioned to provide an effective surveillance and management strategy to identify and eliminate those egg masses that might otherwise go undetected,” said Dr Cindy Otto, professor of Working Dog Sciences and Sports Medicine and director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.
The team worked with three dogs in the initial phase of the trial, teaching them to identify the scent of the spotted lantern in a lab.
Then they moved on to “operational conditions”, asking the dogs to find live eggs on cars and other realistic environments.
The study, which began last December, shows that dogs can identify egg masses with up to 95% accuracy.
For phase two, researchers at Penn Vet will train Lucky, an 18-month-old German Shepherd, to become the state’s first lantern fly detection dog.
“We are delighted to see the work of Dr Otto’s team come to fruition and delighted that Lucky is joining the knowledgeable team of inspectors working to prevent the spread of the spotted lantern fly,” the secretary said. Agriculture Russell Redding.
Dr. Jennifer Essler, one of the researchers, said the best time to hunt for eggs is fall and winter, when all adult lantern flies die off.
“Insects are more or less stationary unless there is human intervention,” she said.
That’s why the state has set up a quarantine zone for 26 counties in the central and southeastern Commonwealth to try to contain the invasive insects. It includes: Dauphin, Mifflin, Perry, Cumberland, York, Lebanon, Lancaster, Northumberland, Schuylkill and York counties.
Almost 63,000 reports of spotted lantern flies have been made in the Commonwealth so far this year, up 72% from last year.