Light-Weight Portable Electroantennography Device as a Future Field-Based Tool for Applied Chemical Ecology

Abstract

Portable electroantennograms (pEAG) can further our understanding of odor plume dynamics and complement laboratory-based electroantennogram tools. pEAG’s can help to address important questions such as the influence of plume structure on insect behavior, the active space of semiochemical-baited traps, and the impact of biotic and abiotic factors on this active space. Challenges associated with pEAGs include their miniaturization and sensitivity, confounding environmental odors, and processing of data. Here, we describe a pEAG built with modern engineering hardware and techniques that is portable in being both light in weight (516 g) and smaller (12 × 12 × 8 cm, volume 1152 cm3) than earlier models. It is able to incorporate insects of a range of sizes (4 to 30 mm antennal length), has wireless communication (communication range of 600 m urban, 10 km line of sight), a stand-alone power supply, and uses both antennae of the test insect. We report normalized antennal responses from Epiphyas postvittana in a dose response experiment where our pEAG compared favorably with traditional laboratory EAG equipment for this species. Dose-response comparisons between E. postvittana, Agrotis ipsilon, and Lymantria dispar dispar showed mean detection limits from a pheromone source dose of 100, 100, and 1 ng, respectively, for our pEAG. This pEAG should allow future real-time analysis of EAG responses in the field in research on how insects interact with odor plumes and the factors that influence the active space of semiochemical-baited traps.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Lloyd Stringer and Kye-Chung Park for comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript; Anne Barrington (Plant and Food Research) for supplying supplementary E. postvittana; Brian Richardson for ideation and inspiration; Belinda Gresham and Debra Bly for artificial diet preparation; Matt Scott and Ben Cleary for insect rearing and Mark West for preparation of pheromones; Kelvin Barnsdale and Bryan Hickson during original prototyping; InFact limited for custom design engineering. This work was funded by the New Zealand Ministry for Business, Innovation, and Employment (C04X1501).

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Contributions

SP, JK, BO, and TS conceived and designed the research. PL and DM contributed to the design of the pEAG. BO and JK conducted experiments. PL and JA and their respective labs contributed to pEAG testing of Agrotis ipsilon, and Lymantria dispar dispar respectively. SP, JK, BO wrote the manuscript with all authors subsequently contributing to and approving the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stephen M. Pawson.

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Key Message

• Field-based electroantennography has been limited due to a lack of available equipment.

• We report a new portable device for recording electroantennograms (pEAG) that is highly portable, simple to use, can accommodate different sized insects, and permits real-time data processing with wireless communication.

• Sensitivity is demonstrated for three species of moth, showing detection of pheromone source concentrations as low as 1 ng.

• This promising tool will facilitate future work characterizing how insects interact with odor plumes and the factors that influence the active space of semiochemical-baited traps. Such knowledge can improve the design of traps for biosecurity surveillance and pest control.

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Pawson, S.M., Kerr, J.L., O’Connor, B.C. et al. Light-Weight Portable Electroantennography Device as a Future Field-Based Tool for Applied Chemical Ecology. J Chem Ecol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10886-020-01190-6

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Keywords

  • Electroantennogram
  • Electrophysiology
  • Biosecurity
  • Biosensor