Bug-Bombs + Drones = The Future of Biocontrol
In a recent post from Joel Grossman at his Biocontrol Beat blog, he writes about a slide show he viewed at a late-night session of the Korean Young Entomologists network in Austin, Texas during the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America.
The slide show, presented by West Virginia University entomologist Yong-Lak Park, was called “Shooting insects from the sky: Aerial delivery of natural enemies using aerospace engineering,” and it depicted a range of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designs, also known as drones, and their payloads of “bug-bombs” containing specially selected insects that can be used to control weeds.
Entomologists on the ground can use the drones to get an aerial view of their fields and see where damage is occurring and where weeds are taking over. Then they can use the drones to drop bug-bombs full of beneficial insects as biocontrol agents.
“Basically, you get an army of weevils on the ground doing weed control, as opposed to aerial bombardment with herbicides and all their environmental side effects,” he writes.
However, “On the downside, it is expensive to find the right insects, as they must be collected, reared and tested to make sure that they stick to the weeds (so you don’t inadvertently introduce a crop pest, for instance). Then you need permits. It might be millions of dollars and decades later before all the hurdles are leaped and a successful program is out the gate.”
While there is still work to be done, some day in the future this may be a viable integrative pest management tool.