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The Trees Are Alive with the Sound of Insects
UCSC Music Professor Partners with NAU Forest Scientists to Patent Auditory Device to Fight Bark Beetle Invasion


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Tree die-offs in forests ranging from New Mexico to this one in British Columbia have been attributed in part to the spread of bark beetles, an insect that feeds and breeds between the bark and the wood of various tree species.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Mark A. Wilson, Public Domain


Following a decade of research on bark beetles, a UC Santa Cruz music professor and two Northern Arizona University forest scientists have patented a device that uses sound to disrupt the essential behaviors of the insect (feeding, communication, and reproduction).

Bark beetles have contributed to massive tree die-offs in the West. Aggressive populations can invade and kill healthy trees.

The early research conducted by professor David Dunn of UCSC involved listening to and recording the sounds of beetles, which he released as a CD entitled The Sound of Light in Trees. Following the CD's release, the NAU scientists approached Dunn for collaboration.

Together, the trio created a device that uses the sounds of the beetles themselves combined with electronically generated sounds produced by circuitry to interfere with the beetle's behavior. While sound has been used in pest control before, usually the pests get used to the noise and return to the area, undisturbed. With this new device, however, there is no repetition of sounds, removing the possibility of the beetles getting used to it.

There is the possibility of expanding this to other invasive insects as well.

The next obstacle in actually using the device is miniaturizing it - which Dunn is working with one of his graduate students to achieve. They hope to utilize FM broadcast and amplifiers attached to trees to spread the noise through affected forests.

Learn more and listen to some of the beetle-disrupting soundtrack at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0X9rhHH2Zg.







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October 17, 2017, 7:13 pm PDT

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