Spotted Lanternfly  +  Detection Dogs

Sniffing and spotting the lanternflies 

When spotted lanternfly (SLF, Lycorma delicatula) arrived in Pennsylvania, severe ecological and economic damage ensued– and in 2020, spotted lanternfly was detected for the first time in New York. While early detection is key to protecting both the livelihoods and ecosystems of NY, this insect’s cryptic nature can make detection at low densities difficult. With funding from Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability, NYISRI and partners are exploring the detection of spotted lanternfly in a new way: comparing the SLF-detection abilities of both human observers, and dogs

In the coming year, surveys of vineyards and natural areas for SLF-egg masses in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, will put both humans’ and canines’ detection skills to the test. The data gathered will feed into an occupancy model, which will estimate the probability that 1) a location is occupied by SLF, and 2) that a human or canine can detect it. Using these methods, the group will compare the efficacy of human observers and detection dogs, identify environmental factors that influence dogs’ detection abilities, and model the probability of SLF occurrence– all in an effort to pilot optimal search strategies for SLF.  Doing so can mitigate the negative impacts of spotted lanternfly, help protect the livelihoods of small agricultural producers in New York State, and provide insight applicable to invasive species detection on the whole.

While it’s not the first time detection dogs have been used to identify invasive species, this study is the first to compare SLF detection probability between dogs and humans. And the dogs are well-prepared with training from our partner organizations. Working Dogs for Conservation and the NY-NJ Trail Conference Conservation Dogs Program has been training dogs to detect SLF adults and egg masses. The trained dogs currently work with NYS Parks, NYS Department of Transportation, and NYS DAM to conduct cargo searches and field surveys for spotted lanternfly. Surveys are being conducted through March 2021, and additional updates will be posted here.

Who’s involved:

This project is made possible by support from the Academic Venture Fund from Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

Updates on this project, and spotted lanternfly: