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Solar-powered insect traps unveiled

August 25, 2011

A council of agriculture research station in Taipei has unveiled two new types of solar-powered insect traps that could significantly boost the agriculture sector’s efforts at promoting biological control of pests.

Lin Hsueh-shih (director of the council’s Taitung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station (TDARES), displayed the traps at a press conference, on Wednesday during which the station’s knowledge of the biological characteristics of insects and agricultural machinery design were touted.

Lin said the traps worked by generating electricity from a 20-watt solar panel on top of the device, adding that the electricity could be stored to power a light bulb at night. Because many insects tend to move toward a light source, different kinds of bulbs can attract the insects, Lin said.

The two types of solar–powered traps differ in how they capture insects. The “drowning type” has a water sink under the light that drowns the insects and the “-suction type” sucks the insects into a net using a small fan.

TDARES Crop Environment Division chief Lin Yung-shun inventor of the two insect traps, said the new traps are special because they absorb sunlight during the day and then sensors automatically switch the light bulb on at night.

Sunlight absorbed during the day provides enough electricity for the machine to operate for six nights, and for rice and vegetable farms, only one or two machines are needed per hectare, Lin Yung-shun said, adding that it also saves farmers the trouble of laying electricity cables in their fields.

“After one-and-a-half years of research and development, we found that separate insect species have their own biological characteristics, such as coming out at different times, flying at different heights or being attracted to different colored bulbs,” Lin Yung-shun said, adding that the traps could easily be adjusted to fit these specific traits.

They said while most insects are attracted to black-purple bulbs, they found that Cerambycidae (longhorn beetles), which often lay their eggs on citrus trees, are attracted by a specific white light.

The traps would be especially beneficial to organic farmers, who currently use pheromones or certain plant oils, such as neem oil, to drive out insects, Lin Yung-shun said, adding that those methods have limitations. For example, pheromone pesticides only attract male insects. If farmers use both the insect traps and the pheromone method, they would be able to reduce the number of insects, the inventor said.

The traps are to be manufactured by two domestic companies and are scheduled to go on sale in October.

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