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The Endangered Hermit Beetle Is Being Tracked By A Trained Dog

September 11th, 2017

The Endangered Hermit Beetle Is Being Tracked By A Trained Dog

There are many insects around the world that are currently considered endangered. Most of these insects are nearing extinction as a result of environmental hazards. Sometimes insects simply go extinct for natural reasons. However, in most cases insects become extinct as a result of human activity. For example, large-scale construction projects can wipe out particular habitats that contain a diverse amount of insects. It is important to prevent the unnatural extinction of insect species, as insects provide a host of benefits to the natural environment. As you can guess, many insects are difficult to monitor. There are a few different and common methods for monitoring and preserving dwindling insect populations, but these methods are often imperfect and far from ideal. In response to this problem, a group of Italian researchers have successfully trained a dog to track a particularly elusive insect.

In Europe, hermit beetle populations are decreasing dramatically. These beetles are considered “at risk” of becoming extinct. Unfortunately, monitoring these beetles is a difficult task, as these beetles are only adults for a short time. These beetles exist as larvae for a full three years, but they are only adults for a single month. Female adults may live a short time longer. Hermit beetle larvae is not easy to locate, as they dwell within the hollow portions of trees. While inside trees, the larvae cover themselves with wood mould. When it comes to monitoring these beetles, scientists will take mould samples from trees in order to possibly find hermit beetle larvae. This particular monitoring method is problematic, as taking mould samples often damages the larvae and their habitat. This method is also inefficient.

In an effort to find a more efficient and less damaging monitoring method, Italian scientists, led by Dr. Fabio Mosconi of the Italian Agricultural Research Council and Sapienza University of Rome have trained dogs for locating hermit beetle larvae in the wild. Dogs are already used for locating a variety of different animals, so why not insects? The researchers chose a Golden Retriever as the most ideal breed for the task.

The study turned out to be a success. Although the dog involved with the study, Tessio, had to undergo significant training in order to detect a variety of odors, the dog was more effective than humans at locating hermite beetle breeding sites within trees. In fact, Tessio the dog was able to locate hermit beetle larvae seventy three percent of the time. Whereas the mould sampling method only turned up beetle larvae thirty four to fifty percent of the time. Tessio easily outdid his human competitors.

Do you think that dogs could be used to locate insect-pest infestations?

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