Weevils get bugged

Banana weevil, image from via rural

Never mind phone hacking scandals, it has recently been revealed that radio tags have been attached to banana weevils allowing their exact movements to be followed. Ignoring any controversy over invasions of privacy, this new insight into weevil journeys’ has produced some interesting results for researchers and banana growers alike.

Earlier this year a ‘weevil detector’ that could test for the presence of red palm weevils inside the trunks of palm trees allowed pesticides to be targeted more effectively. But stalking weevils has now reached a new level, as they get tracked on their daily commutes around banana plantations.

A team of researchers used the data collected from radio-tagged banana weevils (Cosmopolites sordidus) to build a computer simulation model, allowing them to predict the movements of weevils between various arrangements of banana plots and fallow areas (by testing movement across varying degrees of crop fragmentation). The weevils’ behaviour around pheromone traps was also monitored, and findings included traps being most effective when placed on bare soil (rather than on crop residues) and between the crop and fallow areas. The aim for the computer model is to eventually be able to predict banana weevil behaviour under various agricultural practices, helping farmers to grow maximum yields right from the start.

A certain level of ingenuity must be needed to come up with the idea of radio-tagging a weevil, but the results could revolutionise pest management. If the model can be developed for other weevil (Curculionidae) pests, too, then this could be a classic example of ‘prevention is better than cure’, as decreases in pest damage and pesticide use could be seen from day one. So while we are perhaps unlikely to ever see the latest weevil goss appearing in Heat or OK! magazine (and I don’t think the Guardian will want in on this scandal either), the developments seen in our understanding of pest behaviour from this study could certainly be of great benefit to many farmers.

 

References:
You can view the abstract for the original journal article on radio-tagged weevils here:

Vinatier, F., Lescourret, F., Duyck, P-F., Tixier, P. (2012) From IBM to IPM: Using individual-based models to design the spatial arrangements of traps and crops in integrated pests management strategies, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Vol. 146(1), pp. 52 – 59

For other sources see the links in the article above.

Image taken from via rural

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