They Did It!

You may recall a story we shared a few months back about local teams of dogs training to sniff out the invasive spotted lanternfly. Well, we’re happy to report that they did it! All their time and dedication paid off recently when this special group of scent work dogs passed their field test. Working with AWS trainer Melissa McCue-McGrath, these dogs and their owners will make a positive impact on Maine’s agriculture!

What is a Spotted Lanternfly?

Originally from mainland China, spotted lanternflies traveled to the United States over a decade ago. In that time, the invasive species has caused tens of millions of dollars in economic losses. The flies are a type of sap-sucking insect that can feed on over 70 different plant species. They are known to overwhelm plants and cause extreme stress to the flora, causing them to not grow properly, if at all. Lanternflies also pollute local lawns and gardens by excreting a sticky substance called honeydew. Overtime, honeydew builds up under plants and causes a growth of black, sooty mold.

Needless to say, these small insects can have devastating effects on local plant life. Scientists suggest killing any lanternflies on sight, as one female fly can lay over 120 eggs. Of course, with help from dedicated dogs, we can slow down the progress of these invasive pests. That’s why we’re so proud that they did it; they passed their test!

The Power of Scent

With surprising accuracy, studies have proved that properly trained dogs can successfully sniff out spotted lanternfly eggs. AWS trainer, Melissa McCue-McGrath, is one of only two trainers in New England selected to partake in this research. With the power of scent, her group of dogs accurately detected lanternfly eggs around 70% of time. The dogs indicate this by pawing at, biting at, or sitting intently in front of boxes containing eggs. Boxes containing other types of insect eggs are passed by the dogs. This ensures that the dogs are on the right trail!

As part of a nationwide study organized by Texas Tech and Virginia Tech, these teams of dogs spent three months working with Melissa to hone their skills. After all their hard work and dedication, it finally paid off! On April 28, they finally did it and passed their field test! Stay tuned for what’s next for these super sniffers!