The in-flight escape performance of noctuid moths: Studying auditory-induced escape flights of noctuid moths to improve drone-based pest control in greenhouses.

Project: PhD

Project Details


An increasing number of moth species from Southern-Europe enter Dutch greenhouses, resulting in losses up to 20% of total crop yield. Currently, moth infestations are primarily controlled by means of insecticides. Pesticides are, however, more and more considered undesirable and there is increasing societal pressure to switch to environmental-friendly control methods. One promising technique uses ‘autonomous’ drones to hunt moths in flight. PATS Indoor Drone Solutions is successful in this approach for several species, but the current system is ineffective for the most difficult to control moth species Tuta absoluta and Chrysodeixis chalcites. These species are normally hunted by bats and have developed dedicated escape behaviours. This includes a specialized auditory system for detecting an approaching predator, and dedicated flight manoeuvres to escape bats. These escape manoeuvres are the main problem to hunt them by drones. I study in-flight escape behaviour of Tuta absoluta and Chrysodeixis chalcites, by studying responses to attacker-induced auditory cues, and quantifying the resulting escape manoeuvres. Firstly, the escape behaviour will be studied in controlled laboratory settings using both a tethered setup and a free-flight setup. Moth responses, including 3D flight tracks will be quantified with the help of stereoscopic high-speed videography. Secondly, escape responses to attacking drones will be studied in greenhouses, to translate laboratory findings to field settings. The knowledge on escape responses will allow us to develop bio-inspired and species-specific drone attack strategies. I will collaborate with specialists from WUR, TU Delft and PATS Indoor Drones Solutions.
Effective start/end date30/12/21 → …


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