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Labrador Retrievers Work As Stink Bug Trackers


Two Labrador Retrievers have an unusual job! These former shelter dogs work as stink bug trackers!

Dogs have powerful sense of smell. They have been used to detect bombs, track whales, and even sniff out cancer. Their undeniably superb noses continue to inspire research, but scientists have yet to figure out how to replicate the canine nose.

The dogs are helping researchers find overwintering sites of brown marmorated stink bugs.

Labrador Retrievers Work As Stink Bug Trackers (2)Tracy Leskey, the lead entomologist with the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service, has been tracking the spread of this pest. Her scouting team have been doing their best at the “Great Stink Bug Count” in the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in West Virginia.

Two adorable and furry members, Opal and Tig, recently joined her team.

The two former shelter Labrador Retrievers are from the National Detector Dog Training Center in Georgia.

Labrador Retrievers Work As Stink Bug Trackers (1)The Labs worked with USDA-Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service training specialists Jennifer Anderson and Jodi Daughtery to learn to sniff out the scent of BMSB in overwintering areas. They first learned how to track bugs in cardboard boxes indoors. Then, they tracked BMSB in bark attached to living trees.

The Labradors, Opal and Tig, are able to detect the presence of stink bugs with greater than 85% accuracy,according to ARS, but StopBMSB.com puts their accuracy rate at 95%.

Labrador Retrievers Work As Stink Bug Trackers (3)The Labrador partners can also detect snails. They made their BMSB tracking debut in 2013. They have also tracked the presence of BMSB along the Appalachian Trail in Maryland.

“Knowing where brown marmorated stink bugs overwinter is essential to future sustainable mitigation strategies, including integrated pest management programs,” Leskey says. “Field surveys of highly dispersed and concealed overwintering stink bugs can be facilitated by the use of detector dogs. Such use should improve the accuracy and efficacy of sampling efforts.”


Image source: Dong Hyun Lee/ARS
Article source: USDA ARS