Pest-sniffing dog helps save Leamington business
A Leamington greenhouse is using a pest-sniffing dog to save their business.
It’s considered the very first time mans' best friend is being utilized to find insects.
Naturefresh Farms in Leamington is one of the largest producers of bell peppers in all of North America and last year, their crop was threatened by one tiny little pest.
The pepper weevil nearly brought the industry to its knees in 2016.
“It caused about $75 million in damage to pepper growers,” says Cam Lyons, with Naturefresh Farms. “The female lays her egg in the fruit, the larvae bores in, feeds into the pepper and the pepper aborts so we had a lot of fruit drop.”
The good bugs used in a greenhouse couldn't control the weevil, humans can't see it and pesticides just force it to reproduce faster.
“An integrated pest management technician was running out of ideas to stop it,” says Lyons. “No one had a solution for this pest and you know, just thinking outside the box, the dog thing came up again.”
A Belgian shepherd named Chili is trained to find pests.
“It’s the first dog they have certified to detect pepper weevil in a greenhouse,” says Lyons.
It’s a first for her handler Tina Heide, who has been working as a pest scout at Naturefresh for 10 years.
“The dog will pick up a scent so if the weevil would sit somewhere, she would still be able to pick up that scent, a certain distance away and then follow it, to it,” says Heide.
Heide will confirm it is a weevil Chili has found, so pest management technicians can quarantine the area and target the pest.
“She doesn't have to stick her nose right onto it, she just needs to be close enough,” says Heide.
Naturefresh does have other scouts who go around the facilities to find other pests before they become a problem, the benefit of Chili, they say is she allows them to find that needle in the haystack.