No 10. April 2013

The Sound of Chewing Termites

A dramatic reduction in the amount of pesticides needed to stop termites and other pests is possible with a technology developed at Edith Cowan University and now being commercialized.

Engineering researcher Associate Professor Adam Osseiran has developed an environmental monitoring and protection device that uses wireless sensor networks to detect several species of pests.

Each wireless sensor is the size of a postage stamp and can recognize the chewing sound of termites. A series of detectors are placed around the property to be protected, and early detection before infestation is possible, preventing major damage.

When a sound is identified, the device sends a text message or an email with the location, time and date, and the information is also recorded locally on a USB memory stick.

The WiSPr (Wireless Smart Probe) has a 100 per cent success rate and can detect termites in places that are inaccessible for traditional detection methods.

Once pests are detected, a small amount of pesticide is introduced that is taken back to the nest to destroy it. This avoids the need for large scale use of pesticides for prevention or eradication.

The device has been used successfully for over a year on hundreds of buildings in Western Australia.

Associate professor Osseiran says the first device was developed in 2008 in response to attacks by borers. An early version of the technology was used for two years by the Department of Agriculture and Food to detect the European House Borers.

Termites are estimated to cost home-owners up to $1 billion each year.