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Hunting bark beetles with artificial intelligence

Hunting bark beetles with artificial intelligence


In the future, AI should be able to “sniff out” bark beetles on trees. A research team at the Wales campus of Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences is working on a “digital nose” to identify stressed and diseased trees at an early stage.

Not only humans, but trees also get stressed and get sick. This also occurs when bark beetles invade its trunk. Trees emit so-called pheromones – that is, smells. Specially trained dogs can smell and thus signal bark beetle infestations on fir trees. However, this is very stressful for the animals and they get tired quickly.

DigiWald at the University of Applied Sciences in Wales

At Wells, the idea was to replace dogs with an AI that can recognize trees and sniff out stress chemicals and pheromones — with a digital nose, so to speak. FH Professor and Course Head of Agricultural Technology and Management at the FH in Wels is a phytomedicine specialist, so she mainly deals with plant diseases. Together with computer scientist Georg Roman Schneider, who teaches the course, she launched the “DigiWald” project.

Regina Novak / FH Upper Austria

Claudia Probst and George Roman Schneider

Since there are programs with artificial intelligence that can recognize different types of trees using image processing, they want to combine it with olfactory recognition. The system should be able to identify the tree as a spruce, identify the hole as a bark beetle entrance, and detect pheromones.

The research team at Wels University of Applied Sciences wants to analyze the behavior of young beetles alongside federal forests for three years. Entire forests will then be scanned using drones and measuring devices.

300 thousand cubic meters of damaged wood

In 2022, the bark beetle in Upper Austria alone causes more than 300,000 cubic meters of damaged wood. increase by about a quarter. Nationally, the amounts of damaged timber nearly doubled in the previous year.

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