Since it was first discovered in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 2014, the spotted lantern fly-a one-inch-long plant funnel that resembles a moth and native to China-has been critical to the wood, fruit and wine industries on the East Coast. Caused severe damage. It has spread to at least 26 counties in Pennsylvania, and parts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York.
It is well known that this invasive, plant-killing insect can lay eggs on almost any surface, including the exterior of vehicles. Maureen Tang, a chemical and biological engineer at Drexel University, said that these egg clusters are “most worrying because they can hitchhikers for long distances.” Tang is coordinating a project to ask the public to help stop the spread of lantern flies: anyone who finds egg masses can submit photos, and Tang’s team will use these photos to train a sophisticated algorithm that scanning devices can use to search for eggs. (you can Contribute pictures here.)
Adult lantern flies can fly, but prefer to jump. They feed on more than 70 kinds of plants and leave “honeydew” dung, which attracts wasps and other stinging insects, and breeds black, soot-like molds, causing serious damage to plants. Mature insects die in the cold, but their egg mass can hold 30 to 50 eggs, looks like a gray putty, can withstand winter temperatures, and release a new generation in spring.
Antonios Kontsos, a Drexel mechanical engineer who is building image processing algorithms, said the team currently has about 400 crowdsourced photos for its dataset and expects to have thousands of photos by the end of winter. Kontsos says that once it is fully trained, it can allow scanning devices to detect major infections in real time. Tang said that the system will first be put into use in high-risk areas such as railways and docks, where storage containers are often idle for a long time, and manual inspection for egg masses under them is difficult and dangerous. . Lantern fly’s favorite tree, Ailanthus altissima-This is a native of the area where the bugs come from-they tend to grow near railroad tracks.
Drones have already used computer vision technology to scan for signs of pests by flying over crops and trees to check for obvious damage areas. But Tang said her team’s discrete, close-up egg detection system is new.
“We have seen many ingenuities of the spotted lantern fly [research], This is another good example,” said Heather Rich, who studied these insects at Pennsylvania State University but was not involved in the photography project. Leach said that any method to improve detection and reduce the transmission of errors, especially if it has not yet been established Can provide better control opportunities in all regions.
The team’s goal is to complete the algorithm and start using it to search for eggs before errors start to appear. Karen Verderame, curator of entomology at Drexel University’s School of Natural Sciences, points out that egg masses are easier to control than jumping nymphs or swarms of adults. Kontsos said the researchers will first use a portable scanning device to target the highest priority areas, which can search for egg masses under visible light, infrared light, and ultraviolet light. He expects one day to use a version of the device in the “Precision Agriculture Framework”-installing it on a drone for efficient large-area scanning.
“From an environmental perspective, [this multidisciplinary effort is] The road ahead,” Verderame said. “You have to take an out-of-the-box perspective. This really requires the cooperation of the scientific community. “
Editor’s note (2/3/21): This story has been edited after its release to update the description of the native range of the lantern fly, the state where the insect spreads in the United States, and the affiliation of Karen Vidrum.
A version of this article titled “Lanternfly Invasion” was adapted to be included in the March 2021 issue Scientific american.