Scent detection dogs could play large role in fighting spotted lanternfly infestation

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Some smart dogs in Philadelphia may be able to solve the region's spotted lanternfly infestation problem after all.

It's no secret that once hatched, these insects kill trees and destroy crops, as seen for a second year in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

While the unhatched baby insects may seem odorless to humans, dogs can detect them as proven through a new pilot training program at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine.

READ MORE: SQUISH IT!' Scientists calling on everyone to kill spotted lanternflies on sight
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A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania family is combatting the increase spotted lanternfly problem with a trap made of rubber and netting from his 3D printer.

"We put these eggs in front of them, and when they sniff them, we use a clicker. We mark it and we give them a reward," said Dr. Jennifer Essler, a postdoctoral researcher helping to lead the pilot project. "Then you make the game more difficult. You add distracting odors, hide more eggs in more difficult places and train them for whatever scenario."

And the results have been astounding.

"We found that after training on the dead eggs, the dogs transferred easily to the live eggs in just a couple of sessions," said Essler. Preliminary results from the study show that the dogs correctly identified egg masses with up to 95% accuracy while also correctly ignoring non-target scents up to 93% of the time."

The study itself took about five months using three different dogs.

PennVet says Lucky, an 18-month-old German Shepherd, will eventually be paired with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to help fend off these invasive species.
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