Sorting by


How AI is being used to protect your back gardens from Asian hornets

The chance of encountering an Asian hornet could be significantly reduced after scientists developed a new AI system that can spot them with a high degree of accuracy and raise the alarm.

They have created a prototype system that entices the hornets with a mixture of sugar and fermented fruit extracts, takes and analyses a photograph of them using artificial intelligence and sends a message to the local authorities so that they can be captured.

Initial tests found it to be more than 99 per cent accurate in identifying Asian hornets, which are appearing in the UK in ever greater numbers as climate change pushes up temperatures.

This summer, researchers will work with local authorities to test an updated prototype across the south east of England, where most of the sightings have been, as well as in the south west of the country.

They plan to make the system, known as VespAI, commercially available after that, primarily to local authorities and bee keepers – ultimately reducing the number of hornets that end up in our gardens.

Smaller than the UK’s native hornet, the non-native Asian hornet poses a risk to the public in that its sting can be painful.

In very rare cases, where a person is allergic, they can lead to symptoms such as difficulty breathing, hives and swelling.

They also eat honey bees in vast quantities, consuming 50 honey bees a day, with a swarm of insects capable of killing a hive of 30,000.

As such, authorities are keen to limit their number, but at the moment rely on reports from the public, which are often inaccurate.

“The UK sits at the edge of the European invasion front, and with ongoing yearly incursions there is an urgent need for improved monitoring systems,” said Thomas O’Shea-Wheller, of Exeter University.

“Asian hornets have already invaded much of mainland Europe and parts of east Asia, and have recently been reported in the US states of Georgia and South Carolina.

“Our goal was to develop something cost-effective and versatile, so anyone – from governments to individual beekeepers – could use it.”

The AI system that is used to attract and identify Asian hornets (Photo: Peter Kennedy)

The system was first tested in Jersey, which has high numbers of Asian hornets due to its proximity to France.

“The proposed device may prove a powerful tool in the early determination of the presence of Asian hornets in an area, and thereby fills an important gap,” said Alistair Christie, Senior Scientific Officer for Invasive Species in Jersey, who was involved in the tests.

Peter Kennedy, also of Exeter University, who conceptualised the system, added: “Unfortunately, the majority of reports submitted by the public are misidentified native species, meaning that the responsible agencies have to manually validate thousands of images every year – our system thus aims to provide a vigilant, accurate and automated surveillance capability to remediate this,” said

“In some parts of Europe, detection relies on hornet trapping – but such traps kill a lot of native insects, and do little to impact Asian hornet numbers.

“VespAI does not kill non-target insects, and thus eliminates the environmental impact of trapping, while ensuring that live hornets can be caught and tracked back to the nest, which is the only effective way to destroy them.”

The system uses a compact processor to operate, and remains dormant unless its sensors identify an insect within the size range of a hornet.

If this happens, the system’s AI algorithm activates, analysing the image to determine if it’s an Asian hornet, or native European hornet. If an Asian hornet is detected, the monitor then sends an image alert to the user, allowing them to confirm the identification.

The prototype is detailed in the journal Communications Biology.

Asian hornets are not generally aggressive but are known to be highly defensive of their nests and can swoop down and sting in “mass attacks” when they feel threatened, so don’t approach or disturb their nests.

If an Asian hornet does sting you, it is important to immediately wash the area thoroughly with soap and cool water and, if possible, to apply ice to slow the venom spreading further.

The hornets don’t leave a stinger so you will not need to worry about removing one.

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button