Forest damage caused by the bark beetle is increasing due to extreme weather events and the rise in temperature across large parts of Europe. They already account for 30% of the annual amount of timber felled. Large contiguous areas of spruce forests are transformed by the bark beetle into ghostly moonscapes. Timely countermeasures were usually taken too late, if they were taken at all. But a biotechnological IoT solution developed by Witasek Pflanzenschutz GmbH and the IoT communication expert Embever could now provide a remedy.
For forest owners, the mass occurrence of bark beetles of the genus typographer and the copper engraver is a catastrophic situation. Both species start to explore at temperatures of 16 degrees. Within the following one to two weeks they colonize suitable breeding material and start laying eggs. In this way, generations of beetles are created which reproduce up to four times within one year.
A single female beetle produces between 100,000 and 200,000 descendants per year. The damaged wood can only be sold at a fraction of the original price. In addition, wood prices have been in the decline for years due to the ongoing pest and overproduction in the sawmills.
What is to be done?
The earlier you fight the bark beetle, the sooner you can prevent mass reproduction of the beetle. Beetle nests and fallen trees from the previous year should be removed in spring, because these places strongly attract the bark beetle. Between April and October, the most important thing is to detect new infestation early. When observing a swarming flight, every second counts.
The fastest and safest way to do this is to use monitoring solutions that are able to detect or estimate swarming flights and population density. Freshly infested trees must be identified and immediately felled, barked and removed from the forest. In this way mass reproduction can be stopped.
Up to now, attempts have been made to detect the swarm flight via so-called slotted traps equipped with pheromone attractants. Huge forest areas are monitored in this way in order to initiate suitable countermeasures as quickly as possible. The traps are positioned at vulnerable points and controlled in a seven to ten day rhythm. However, this procedure has proven to be very work intensive, as the individual traps have to be approached up to 30 times during a year, checked manually and then cleaned. Due to high personnel costs, the traps are often only set up at easily accessible locations, while measurements cannot be taken at important points.
"As a result, swarm flights at important points are discovered too late or not at all during the high season and important time for countermeasures is lost."
Challenges of the new product generation
The biotechnical IoT monitoring solution of Witasek Pflanzenschutz GmbH provides tightly meshed information on population density and swarming behaviour and enables faster countermeasures. The traps are equipped with a smart counting device. A browser-based dashboard enables forest owners and foresters to keep an eye on the most inaccessible corners of their forests at all times. The trap only has to be set up once and the pheromones have to be renewed at given intervals. Threshold values can be set remotely and, of course, the system also sends fully automatic notifications to the end user via E-mail or SMS.
How does it work?
The whole system works with the help of the Embever IoT Core which has been developed for battery powered products. Embever GmbH is specialized in connecting battery powered products with web applications using mobile communication technologies.
The system is based on a complex interaction of energy-efficient protocols, specialized firmware and a cloud system developed for it. It is system-independent and guarantees the user not only the fastest development results but also outstanding energy efficiency.
In cooperation with Witasek, the total costs of monitoring can be reduced. Due to the adjustable measuring intervals swarm flights can be detected in time and the number of traps can be increased due to reduced personnel costs. The system promises to be a great help to fight the bark beetle.
The bark beetle infests entire forests and endangers their existence. Foresters and forest owners must take countermeasures as quickly as possible if they want to protect forests. The biotechnical IoT monitoring solution reduces personnel costs, collects current swarm flight data and saves time. Time to stop the mass reproduction of beetles and save the forests.