Taking Insect Identification into the Digital Age.

January 9, 2014

Nayna Vyas-Patel

Traditional methods of identifying insects is intensely time consuming and a task best left to highly trained and experienced taxonomists. One mosquito can look very much like another, a ladybird or bee with deadly properties can appear to be one species, when in fact it is an aggressive intruder, masquerading as a more benign and similar looking species. In some cases, the only way to tell a native species apart from a similar looking but aggressive and dominant invasive invader is DNA testing or chemical analysis of pheromones. Yet the physical clues to their true identities are nearly always present visually, if only the human eye could differentiate them easily! This is where technology and Sloop can aid the task of differentiation and recognition of different insect species, far more easily, quickly and accurately than the human eye.

Insects impact on biodiversity as well as human activities and survival in a major way. Mosquitoes and the diseases they carry have felled armies and continue to kill large numbers of people and children around the world today with devastating effects on the economy. At the other end of the scale, the pollination of crops carried out by beneficial armies of bees cannot be improved on by humans. Farmers can lose anything from between 15 to 50 per cent of their crops, sometimes all of their crop to insect pests and misidentifying the pest involved can have serious economic consequences. History is replete with numerous real life examples where misidentification and targeting of the wrong pest species for treatment has led to catastrophic losses and large scale economic costs. Worse is the loss of human, animal and plant life that ensues with incorrect insect species identification. In all of the above scenarios, accurate identification of insects forms the core of the problem and is vital to the solution of averting crop losses, biodiversity and human life.

So how can Sloop based methods help? This query formed the basis of our investigations. The pages to follow will reveal the immensely useful role that Sloop can have on the quick and accurate identification of insects and hence the great impact insects have on human survival and biodiversity. Sloop is indeed a vital, modern, ‘Cool Tool’ with many different applications and uses.