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Saving Trees with 3D Printed Beetle Traps

beetle traps

Entomologists use 3D printed beetle traps to study species that causes severe damage to trees, by infecting them with a devastating fungus.

beetle trapsThe “Polyphagous shot hole borer” is a species of small, invasive beetle originating from South East Asia. But while the creatures are small, they’ve caused a big problem in the Southern California region. The insects have infected a large number of the 40,000 trees located in the University of California Riverside Campus with a tree-killing fungus.

A team of entomologists are using 3D printers to combat the problem, manufacturing specially-designed beetle traps to study the life cycle of the species, and find clues to a potential solution. {via scpr.org}

The problem is complex because researchers can’t simply use pesticide to get rid of the beetle — the insect is drilling its way right inside the tree, infecting it with a fungus that damages the water distribution tissue network of the plant.

Time is of the essence, too. The Shot Hole Borer doesn’t have to contend any natural predators in the USA, so there is a real danger their numbers will grow unchecked and quickly spread across the country. Regional workshops have taken place to discuss the problem in detail.

Beetle Traps, for Trapping Beetles

In order for scientists to learn more about what the beetle does after it finds its way inside the tree, a 3D printed beetle trap was developed with the help of Deezmaker and Huntington Botanical Gardens expert entomologists. These traps make it possible to test out several different pesticide mixes and find the most effective formulation — without having to cut the whole tree down to determine the effect. {via scpr.org}

The campus spent $1,300 to buy their own 3D printer, while each of the beetle traps only cost $0.6 – $1.3$ to manufacture (depending on the design). This approach would be impractical and expensive otherwise, not least because of inconsistent testing results because of the design variations of each hand-made trap.

3D printing has provided scientists the tools to find new ways to fight this tree menace in the USA, by allowing them to speed up the testing of numerous beetle-fighting methods. UC Irvine Professor Richard Stouthamer says of the technology: “It allows you to design traps that is exactly what you want… as long as you have someone who knows how to program the bloody thing.”