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, a recent collaborative research effort explored the detection of spotted lanternfly in a new way: comparing the SLF-detection abilities of both human observers, and dogs

The interdisciplinary research team and collaborators, coordinated by NYISRI, conducted surveys of 20 vineyards and adjacent natural areas for SLF-egg masses in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Data collected from November 2020 through April 2021 were used to build occupancy models to help estimate the probability that 1) a location is occupied by SLF, and 2) a human or canine can detect it. After comparing the efficacy of humans and detection dogs, identifying environmental factors that influence dogs’ detection abilities, and the probability of SLF egg occurrence, the team has come up with optimal search strategy recommendations for SLF. Employing these methods and monitoring for early detection of SLF can help mitigate the negative impacts of spotted lanternfly, 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. 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. For more details on this research and the outcomes of it, check out the additional resources below.

Research Team:

This project was supported by the Cornell Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund, a grant with the specific objective to seed original, interdisciplinary research, and serve as an incubator for the next generation of sustainable solutions.

Updates on this project, and spotted lanternfly: