Electronic Bug Trap Reduces Labor

Taylor Hillman General, Pest Update, Technology

electronic bug trap
A new electronic bug trap reduces labor and can save a grower in application costs. The trap aims to replace the old sticky traps that are currently used to monitor several pests.

Electronic Bug Trap Reduces Labor

Attendees at the Forbes AgTech Summit in Salinas got a chance to see some of the latest technologies coming out for agriculture. Spensa Technologies was a demonstrator on one of the tours, showing off its new bug trap. “We have been around since 2009 out of Purdue University. The company started when Purdue University, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon and Penn State, received a grant from USDA to solve labor intensive tasks in high-value specialty crops,” vice president of software, Ben Brame says. “Also on that project were things like load estimation, automatic pruning for grapes and apples and Spensa Technologies was founded to commercialize the trapping technology.”

An Electronic Bug Trap

Brame says their trapping technology is called the Z-trap. “The basic idea is that it’s a replacement for pheromone-baited sticky traps,” Brame says. “You deploy the Z-trap at the beginning of the season like you would a typical pheromone trap. You use the same lures you do today. The difference is instead of the insects getting stuck to a piece of flypaper, they get zapped. It’s not just a normal fly zapper; it’s called a bioimpedance sensor.”

How it Works

Brame says that zap itself is analyzed and identifies a pest without even having to look at the trap. “It discharges electricity through the insect’s body and then measures the shape of that curve to figure out if that’s the target insect we are looking for or some off-target species,” Brame says. “There’s a few things we do to make sure we are only counting the right bugs. We only turn the trap on when the target species is flying. The pheromone lure obviously filters out a lot of non-targets, but then the signal analysis when the zap actually occurs allows us to, with a high degree of confidence, ensure that it’s the insect we’re looking for.”

California Pests

Brame says the electronic bug trap can be programmed to identify one of several pests that are of concern to California producers. “There are around ten species currently that we support today and an individual trap will just monitor one pest at a time,” Brame says. “The big ones we are focusing on today are navel orangeworm, codling moth, oriental fruit moth and about ten other species.”