A unique approach: the dog that detects bark beetles
Concerns are rising due to the widespread infestation of bark beetles. One potential solution to safeguard forests could be to use specially trained dogs to track the presence of these pests.
Despite being only a few millimeters in size, the bark beetle possesses great destructive potential. It is considered one of the most hazardous pests to forests as it reproduces underneath the bark of trees and can rapidly spread. While bark beetles have always existed, their numbers have never been as high as they were last year in Switzerland.
Foresters attribute the increasing bark beetle infestation to climate change and the accompanying drought. Antonin Hugentobler, a forester in the Scuol forest district, reports a significant rise in beetle populations last summer. If left unchecked, the pests can devastate extensive forested areas.
Last summer in Scuol, Switzerland, Antonin Hugentobler witnessed the trees becoming completely bare due to the bark beetle infestation. This indicates that the beetle had already spread and taken hold, and it was too late to take action. Therefore, early detection is crucial for protecting forests.
Report pheromones by sniffing
Antonin Hugentobler has come up with a unique solution to tackle the bark beetle problem – using dogs to detect them. Zino, a forest dog, is currently undergoing training with dog trainer Marie-Sarah Beuchat. The duo has been working with pheromones for around a month, which are specific scents that insects emit to communicate with each other.
Zino is being trained to detect the pheromones emitted by bark beetles and signal his handler when he detects them. The foresters hope that with Zino’s help, they will be able to detect bark beetle infestations much earlier than they would on their own. Antonin Hugentobler explains:
“Often, by the time we discover an infestation, it is already too late, and the spread has progressed too far”.
While Zino’s abilities are impressive, any dog can be trained to do the same job. However, certain dog breeds are more suitable than others, especially those that can cover larger areas like Zino.
“The dog shouldn’t be too small. Hunting, working, and herding dogs are the best breeds for this type of work,” says about the dog trainer Marie-Sarah Beuchat.
Hope for Zino
Hugentobler is hopeful that Zino will be able to put his training to use in the fall. Beuchat agrees that timing is crucial, and the success of the dog’s training will depend on his talent and the handler’s experience. Basic training can take anywhere from three to five months, or even longer.
Graubünden could potentially have its first bark beetle sniffer dog in the form of Zino. However, in countries such as Austria and Germany, dogs are already being used to effectively prevent the spread of the beetle.