Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Scientists hope to fight Florida's citrus greening problem with sexy new insect trap

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 2:41 PM

click to enlarge RICHARD MANKIN/USDA
  • Richard Mankin/USDA

The battle between Florida citrus and plant-killing bacteria may be coming to an end with the help of acoustic technology.

Between 2006 and 2012, a bacteria known as citrus greening has cost Florida $3.63 billion due to drastically reducing orange juice production. The bacteria is spread by an invasive insect called the Asian citrus psyllid.

There is no cure for citrus greening, which causes trees to die a few years after infection, however, scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and University of Florida have been developing a new buzzing trap that could solve the problem.

Here's how the trap works: a piezoelectric buzzer and microphone connect to an Arduino microcontroller. When a male insect's mating vibrations shake the microphone, a signal gets sent to the piezoelectric buzzer, which then replicates the vibrations of a female insect. Being the horny devil that he is, the male psyllid will rush to the fake female sounds and get snagged in a sticky trap.

Researchers are currently discussing the construction and operation of the buzz trap at the 170th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Jacksonville, Fla.

The USDA National Agriculture Statistics Survey reports that orange growers have had a particularly rough year in 2015 with production down 17 percent. With only 80 million boxes of oranges produced, this is the smallest crop in 52 years, according to Miami New Times.

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