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Insect tracking

One of the main concerns regarding small flying insects is that they are impossible to observe in the wild with conventional aids. Therefore we have a large gap in our knowledge of insect flight behaviour, habitat use and natural densities, all of which is important for the understanding of animal movement research in general, but also for the epidemiological spread of vector-borne diseases in particular.

We are a group of scientists from the Biology and Physics Department at Lund and Copenhagen University that have been working interdisciplinary towards developing novel optical systems to monitor small insects in their natural environment. Specifically, during the last years our group has worked with the remote monitoring of atmospheric fauna based on the spectral backscattered signal from atmospheric animals We have previously been using Laser-radar or lidar to capture signals, which is an optical remote sensing technology to measure the distance to, or other properties of, targets with laser light and analysing the backscattered light over far distances. In 2013, our research group has invented a novel laser-radar scheme for monitoring of atmospheric fauna.

Novel laser-radar scheme

Researcher in action

The novelty consists of implementing a bi-static lidar with a compact and continuous wave laser-diode and a fast line-scan camera. The main aim with the present proposal is use the novel system during the field season 2014 to monitor insects in nature (and to relate their movement patterns and activity cycles to environmental variables, such as e.g. sunlight, temperature, wind speed.)

Optical setup

optical setup

Weather denotes a compact weather station, All-sky denotes an all sky camera, DAQ is a data acquisition board for wing beat measurements, Quad is a quadrant detector for recording harmonics and heading direction, LD is a Laser Diode, Line is a line scan camera, Cam is a high speed RGB camera. Measurements can be done between 1-20 m. The system can be applied close to ground for horizontal sounding or be put in contact with the water surface for nadir sounding.

Target species

Anopheles maculipennis
Anopheles maculipennis

The target species to test our setup in the previous image will be disease vectors (Culicoides and mosquitoes), which represent two of the core study systems of our groups. For the disease vectors, the first goal is to determine the signal variation within and between species and sexes of the two important disease vectors, Culicoides obsoletus and C. pulicaris.

Signal variation

The second goal is to determine the signal variation within and between species (genera) and sexes of mosquitoes, including Culex pipiens, Anopheles maculipennis and A. plumbeus. Knowledge from the disease monitoring will help to establish a method which will make it possible to determine precisely how many flying insect vectors are in an area. This is currently impossible and has a great impact on the epidemiological modelling of the spread of vector-borne diseases.
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Centre for Animal Movement Research
Evolutionary Ecology, Department of Biology
Ecology building S-223 62 Lund Sweden