PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the war against the dreaded spotted lanternfly, man’s best friend may be our best weapon. A new program at Penn Vet is training dogs to sniff out the invasive pest.
Unlike the stink bug, the invasive spotted lanternfly easily bypasses the human nose. But a dog’s snout doesn’t miss a thing.
“I can say it was one of the harder projects for the dogs. The odor is very faint,” said Dr. Jennfier Essler.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine have found that after rigorous training, dogs are able to sniff out spotted lanternfly eggs with extreme accuracy.
“Not only can they find the eggs but we can read their body language and train them to give signals to us that they have found them,” Essler said.
And that’s the power the pup has over other animals with even better sensory skills. Essler says bears and elephants may have stronger noses, but dogs are brilliant communicators as well.
“It started in the fall with just three of our research dogs and obviously it went really well and has evolved into this really interesting project for us,” Essler said.
After a several-month pause due to the coronavirus, the project has wrapped up and now has the potential to help thwart the spread of the invasive species.
“For the dogs, it’s a game, it’s like anything else. They don’t know that they are saving the planet in any way,” Essler said.
Three of the dogs involved in the project are research dogs so they will stay at the center and move on to another project, but there was one standout named Lucky.
Lucky is in training right now and will begin working with the Department of Agriculture as a spotted lanternfly detection dog.