3D printing is bringing new possibilities to IPM

Scientists in Florida and Pennsylvania are using new 3-D printers to battle destructive invasive insects.

In Florida, scientists at the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services (FDACS) are experimenting with new trap designs to aid in the control of the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector of citrus greening. Pennsylvania State University scientists are using the printers to make deadly mates for emerald ash borer.

To monitor Asian citrus psyllid, specialists have been using sticky traps. Although the traps are effective at catching the insects, they damage the insect’s body and attract other species of insects. Judith Brown, a plant sciences professor from the University of Arizona, says that keeping the insects intact is crucial to testing them for pathogens and isolating their DNA to separate Asian citrus psyllid from the potato/tomato psyllid. In addition, extension specialists need to separate the psyllids from other species of insects that land on the traps.

So scientists from FDACS and USDA are using a new $2,300 3-D printer to design a new insect trap to collect only psyllids without disturbing the insects’ bodies. The team started with simple cylinder designs and then experimented with more specialized designs by hand. The 3-D printer can put together a trap in a fraction of the time it takes to make by hand, all at the press of a computer key.

Scientists are experimenting with different ways to attract psyllids specifically. The traps are yellow, the same color as the sticky traps. Because psyllids crawl upward toward sunlight, the team is experimenting with ways to shine light through the holes at the top of the trap. Other scientists are trying to find chemical attractants. The trick is to lure the insect into the trap but keep it from climbing out.

Scientists at Penn State University are experimenting with different decoy designs to lure male emerald ash borers to try to mate with an imitation female borer that will electrocute them upon landing. The international research team—made up of entomologists and engineers at Penn State, two research organizations in Hungary and the USDA—are working with three decoy designs. One design utilizes a dead EAB female, another is a metallic mold created from coating a female with nickel, and the third is a plastic decoy created by a 3-D printer.

Tests showed that males nearly always chose the dead females over the other decoys, but their second preference was the metallic bioreplicated decoy. Although males flew toward the 3-D printed decoys, they never landed on them. They did land briefly on the bioreplicated decoys, and although they tried to quickly escape, the electric current stunned them enough to be captured by the trap.

The lead researcher says that male EABs choose mates based on color and shape, and perhaps identify females by the light-scattering qualities of the shell. The team is designing traps that can be assessed remotely to aid in early detection for emerald ash borer. USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service is working with Penn State researchers on remote-reporting.

Partners in Hungary have so far had success with testing similar decoys on other invasive insects that are threatening oak trees in central Europe.


Penn State. ’Femme Fatale’ emerald ash borer decoy lures, kills males. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2014. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/140915153842.htm.

Solliday, A. (16 Oct 2014) Pest-Plagued Florida scientists design 3-D printed insect traps. Modern Farmer. Retrived from http://modernfarmer.com/2014/10/ag-scientists-design-new-3-d-printed-insect-traps/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: