Virginia Tech researching how dogs can help detect spotted lanternfly

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 6:15 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - The spotted lanternfly is an invasive species that sucks the nutrients out of plants.

“It takes the juice out from the vine. Most likely they will not be able to kill the vines, but they weaken enough to cause other issues,” Virginia Tech Associate Professor Mizhou Nito said.

These insects first came to the United States around 6 years ago.

“It’s pretty big,” Nito said. “It’s about an inch, inch and a half as an adult, then it flies everywhere so he become a kind of nuisance pest as well for the other people.”

A partnership between Texas Tech and Virginia Tech is now allowing for research on ways to detect the bugs with the help of dogs.

“We’re learning a lot on how we need to train and what we need to train, and right now we’re in the recruitment stage for our citizen science teams,” Virginia Tech Associate Professor Erica Feuerbacher said.

The goal is for dogs to be trained to be able to smell lanternfly eggs on vines.

“I’m really hoping that we find that this can be a successful approach to recruit average dogs and average owners and find really meaningful ways for them to connect, have fun training together, and then also go out and help solve local environmental issues that might be really meaningful to some of these handlers,” Feuerbacher said.

This research is still in the early phases but these experts say dogs could be the way of the future in some agricultural practices.

“I think with the right motivation and dedication, this is a project that is really a proof of concept that can be a stepping point for a lot of communities to go from, to get to do that grassroots environmentalism and protecting our own agriculture and environment around us,” doctoral student Sally Dickenson said.

To participate in the study, click here.