Invasive insect pests cost the agricultural industry billions of dollars annually in crop losses. Timely detection of pests is critical for management efficiency. Innovative pest detection strategies, such as environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques, combined with efficient predators, maximize sampling resolution across space and time and may improve surveillance. We tested the hypothesis that temperate insectivorous bats can be important sentinels of agricultural insect pest surveillance. Specifically, we used a new high-sensitivity molecular assay for invasive brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys) to examine the extent to which big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) detect agricultural pests in the landscape. We documented consistent seasonal predation of stink bugs by big brown bats. Importantly, bats detected brown marmorated stink bugs 3-4 weeks earlier than the current standard monitoring tool, blacklight traps, across all sites. We highlight here the previously unrecognized potential ecosystem service of bats as agents of pest surveillance (or chirosurveillance). Additional studies examining interactions between other bat and insect pest species, coupled with comparisons of detectability among various conventional monitoring methods, are needed to verify the patterns extracted from this study. Ultimately, robust economic analyses will be needed to assess the cost-effectiveness of chirosurveillance as a standard strategy for integrated pest management.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)