For several years now, I have been experimenting (trialing?) automated pheromone traps originally made by Spensa Technologies. At first, their 'Z-traps' literally did 'Zap' and kill (render flightless, at least temporarily) flying male moths entering the trap (attracted by appropriate pheromone), and the on-board electronics would count these moths. That information would then be sent to their cloud-based 'MyTraps' platform where the user could access and visualize the trap data on a 'dashboard' after logging in to their account on the web. (Note that their overall Spensa Agronomic Platform, in addition to MyTraps, also has many other features, particularly a pest scouting and recordkeeping interface available on a mobile device.) In 2018 Spensa was aquired by DTN.
Before 2018 my experience with the Z-Traps was kind of 'meh.' It was primarily a black-box driven set of hardware/software devices, the set-up and transmission of collected data being kind of onerous. Plus, trap distance from the base station, which needed to be hard-wire connected to the internet via router, was limiting. Trapped and killed moths, however, once 'zapped' could be seen and counted after being funneled into a collection device. But I don't want to talk about the old set-up because that has been discontinued.
In 2018, Spensa/DTN introduced a new camera trap, dubbed a 'Smart Trap,' the hardware being nearly identical to before, but instead replaced the 'zapping' mechanism with a simple sticky bottom, just like a traditional pheromone wing trap. Then, a camera located just above the sticky trap bottom would take a daily picture of the bottom and trapped moths, and transmit that to the DTN web dashboard. In addition to being able to remotely visualize what was caught, the Spensatech software could actually isolate the moths, differentiate between old catches and new catches, and chart/plot the results. Overall, based on my experience it (mostly) works!
|Smart Trap at UMass Cold Spring Orchard, Belchertown, MA on 27-June, 2018|
|Sticky bottom of Smart Trap with OBLR capture; note camera points down|
at sticky bottom at bottom of white rectangular electronics box
|Cumulative OBLR caught in Smart Trap; red outlines are|
previously caught moths, green outlines are moths caught in past day
|DTN AP dashboard chart of season-long OBLR trap catch in one Smart Trap|
|Season-long OBLR trap catch using conventional pheromone trap(s);|
note rough match with chart of moths caught using Smart Trap above
Smart Traps/DTN Agronomic Platform PROS and CONS
- SmartTrap set up is simple and communication generally reliable (although one trap out of three I had went dead after awhile, was replaced by DTN)
- SmartTraps can be installed anywhere there is a decent cellular GSM signal (AT&T, T-Mobile I believe, NOT Verizon)
- DTN/AP/MyTraps is robust (but has a rather steep learning curve)
- much time and money and travel can be saved by not having to manually check trap counts
- trap counts come in daily, which unless the traps are on-site, typically is done only weekly if done manually
- good season-long record and visualization of trap data with no additional effort (entering data, etc.)
- cost, about $400 per trap per year (the traps are not owned but leased), mostly to cover the cost of cellular data transmission and to support the DTN cloud and dashboard (note, however, the dashboard has other general scouting uses in addition to supporting Traps)
- DTN/AP/MyTraps web application has a rather steep learning curve (but is quite robust); probably not for everyone
- reliability, some issues still need to be improved because as noted one out of three traps failed mid-season (but was readily replaced by DTN)
- sustainability of Smart Traps and DTN/AP is unknown at this time after aquisition of SpensaTech
- not having to manually check traps takes out (sometimes) the personal interaction with growers, and perhaps train future pest scouts?
- will I sign up again in 2019? remains unclear...