The medical industry has opened a view to the public into the remarkable work and capabilities of medical technology during the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis. Although the technological accomplishments within the pest management industry pale in comparison to these medical achievements, there is a transformation occurring. The food and beverage industry does not have the same level of sophistication as its high-tech medical counterparts, but the technology has the power to make dramatic changes in the protection of food from pests.
Technology is being deployed primarily in the form of new pest detection methods, with benefits in problem solving, worker safety and an increase in pest monitoring capabilities. In addition, the industry is learning more about pest behavior and the effectiveness of control tools. Some examples of the novel technology being deployed include the use of pest detecting sensors and cameras.
Technology and detection
Cameras, infrared sensors and motion sensors are being used to detect a variety of pests. While rodents were the first pest group targeted, stored products pests, flying insects and even bed bugs can be monitored via electronic monitoring devices today.
Here at McCloud Services, we have tested a variety of different types of sensors and cameras for remote and on-site monitoring in rodent management programs. Some of the sensors will alert based on the rodent physically contacting a sensor via movement. Some sensors will alert based on infrared, while others base their detection on weight changes on a pad that will trigger an alert.
All types of sensors will help facilities combat pest issues, but there can be a slight disadvantage for devices that trigger based on mechanical movement. In some cases, the movement can be triggered in high traffic areas by humans bumping into the trap or cleaning crews hitting the trap. This makes proper placement of the trap vital, as it should avoid high traffic areas and/or be placed inside a guard to protect the trap from accidental triggers. This can help reduce false alerts.
In addition to sensored devices, there are stand-alone cameras, like trail cams, and camera-mounted devices inside stations or traps. Cameras can help identify species, patterns, times of activity and reaction of the pests to control devices. Through these cameras, the industry is learning about basic rodent behavior, behavior of specific rodent populations at a facility and how to modify the control strategies.
In one recent camera deployment at a facility, we determined routes of rodent travel and snap trap avoidance by a house mouse infestation. The cameras showed that the mice were running up the legs of warehouse racking in the 3D distribution. We then secured snap traps to the vertical rack legs in their travel paths. In another installation, cameras revealed that dock doors were being left open for extended periods of time, allowing for pest infestation.
The technological advancements of cameras doesn’t end there. There are now camera-based pheromone traps and insect light traps being used to photograph trap captures. After this type of camera captures the image, the photos are sent to a pest management company for analysis. These devices are relatively new to the marketplace, and their practicality for large scale programs or fitting every pheromone trap or insect light trap is debatable.
However, this new technology could have potential impact with select traps located in difficult-to-reach areas. As these cameras continue to be refined through updates, they may also be able to serve other areas in a facility. In fact, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize and identify the photo captures of these cameras would be particularly useful in providing quick and more accurate data for the facility and pest management professionals (PMP).
On-site alerts vs. remote alerts
While almost all devices have alerts for when a pest is found, most devices send remote alerts directly to the PMP. When a pest triggers the sensor-equipped device, an alert is sent remotely to the PMP in the form of a text or e-mail. The alert provides information on when a pest is captured and helps determine the root cause of the infestation. The device monitors 24/7, which allows for quicker dispatch to remove or respond to the capture, as deemed appropriate by the PMP.
There is also Bluetooth-based monitoring device systems that provide alerts once the pest management company is on-site. These are short-ranged devices, so the PMP will need to be in range of the sensor to receive the alert. This range is generally 30-100 feet from the device. The short-range sensors still provide a time stamp on when the sensor was triggered, but it doesn’t provide this information remotely. Once the PMP is at the facility, he/she will be able to determine if the equipment needs to be inspected.
Both remote and on-site systems have a place in pest management programs, as the type of system is dependent on the characteristics and needs of the facility, but the technological advances of these systems still continue. Remote monitoring manufacturers and Bluetooth-based device manufacturers are working on the use of AI to help identify the pest contacting the sensor. This will allow for PMPs to determine if it was a pest triggering the sensor or a non-target animal. In some systems, the type of target pest can already be defined, but the level in definitive recognition is limited for now. For example, a device may be able to tell if it is a house mouse or cockroach, however, it cannot decipher between a ground beetle or a cricket.
What does this mean for my facility?
New technology can provide enormous benefits in the form of problem solving and determining the root cause of a problem. It can provide a reduction in the frequency needed to service a large number of rodent trap monitors that do not see captures on a regular basis as well as provide safer alternatives in servicing difficult-to-reach areas that require trapping. The greatest promise comes in the form of integrating our pest detection devices with environmental sensors to provide a picture of a facility’s condition and the pest profiles within. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the accuracy and reliability of pest monitoring devices.
With these tools and a robust pest management plan in place, PMPs and facilities can eliminate pest concerns that may potentially damage a company's reputation and brand. Just like the latest healthcare technologies are saving lives, pest control devices are one of the first lines of defense when it comes to food safety.