Last year at Entomology 2013, the 60th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave a presentation called “Exploring Overwintering Ecology of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Using Detector Dogs.” Now they have published an article about this topic in the journal PLOS ONE.
The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is an invasive species from Asia that causes major economic losses in agricultural production, and it’s also a nuisance for homeowners as massive numbers of them often invade human-made structures to overwinter. In this study, the USDA researchers explored forested landscapes in the mid-Atlantic region to locate and characterize natural overwintering structures used by the stink bugs, and they also evaluated the use of dogs to locate them.
“Domestic dogs have the exceptional ability to detect targeted scents,” said Tracy Leskey at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia. “We found that they are at least twenty times faster than human surveyors at finding overwintering stink bugs.”
Two labrador retrievers named Opal and Tig were trained to detect the stink bugs and to sit when they smelled them. They were then given food rewards for successfully finding the target odor.
The stink bugs were mainly found in dry crevices of dead, standing trees with thick bark, especially oak and locust trees.
“The results of this study reveal that there are evident preferences by H. halys for selection of overwintering structures in natural landscapes,” the authors wrote. “It is noteworthy that overwintering H. halys were found almost exclusively from dry surfaces within dead, standing trees … In contrast, no overwintering H. halys were found from downed trees or leaf litter.”
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