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A detailed evaluation of Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) detection dog training and performance – Presented by Edgar O. Aviles-Rosa

Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive foreign insect that is currently threatening U.S. forestry and agriculture. Current eradication efforts consist of removing egg masses before they hatch. However, finding egg masses is difficult because the SLF camouflage its egg with the bark. A recent study found that dogs can detect dead SLF egg masses, suggesting that dogs could be used as an in the filed detector to eradicate SLF. The aim of this study was  to further evaluate dogs’ capability to detect and discriminate SLF egg masses from different environmental distractors. Seven mix-breed dogs were trained to operate an automated olfactometer. Subsequently they went through a 9 phases training program where they were tested with different environmental distractors or SLF samples. At  each training phase we evaluated dogs’ performance to assess how it was affected by the introduction of new distractors or samples. All dogs were able to detect SLF egg masses. We observed an increase in false alerts when we introduced tree bark and insects as distractor, but this decrement in performance was recovered quickly. Most dogs were able to generalize to different samples and to a sample of SLF egg on bark without explicit training. The data outlined the importance of training dogs with relevant environmental distractors and that dogs can generalize to different samples of SLF without explicit training. Although field trials still need to be conducted, the results indicate that detection dogs could be a valuable asset in SLF eradication efforts.

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