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Removing the Need for Pesticides with Lasers and Machine Vision

In an article published in Oriental Insects, researchers developed a novel laser insect control device that was automated with machine vision for influencing and neutralizing insect pests. The strategy's viability was demonstrated by conducting trials on domestic German cockroaches, Blattella germanica, to show that it is possible to instantly and selectively neutralize individual insects at up to 1.2 meters.

Study: Selective neutralisation and deterring of cockroaches with laser automated by machine vision. Image Credit: Brett Hondow/

Pesticides, which use a comprehensive spectrum of toxins or chemicals persistent in the environment and target non-pest insect species, are still heavily used as general, established techniques for pest control. More efficient and eco-friendly methods are required to mitigate these negative impacts. Since a laser can be remotely guided to neutralize unwanted targets, this strategy can benefit selective and eco-friendly pest control.

The authors also demonstrated the potential to repel German cockroaches by training them not to stay under dark shelters using a low-power laser and severe heat conditioning. Here the proposed prototype system's parameters were quickly tunable for use with diverse scenarios and pest species such as locusts, caterpillars, and mosquitoes. Finally, this research aimed to develop environmentally friendly, compact, inexpensive, and energy-efficient equipment for pest control. 

Reimagining Traditional Pest Control Techniques

Pest control is a significant problem for the food and public health sectors. Current agrochemical pest control methods for eradicating harmful insects are often problematic since they breed resistance and frequently harm unintended species. For instance, the widespread nonspecific insecticide use for crop protection has become a significant factor in declining pollinator populations.

Natural predators or chemical traps that release chemicals in the targeted pests' communication have been developed as bio-pest control options to address these issues. Even though these methods are feasible, they must be implemented appropriately and consider their impact on understanding the species’ biology.

A more general strategy that targets certain animal pests without endangering the environment needs to be created. A laser has been considered an alternate method to selectively neutralize undesirable targets, such as animal pests and weeds.

In this study, German cockroaches, Blattella germanica, were used to test the effectiveness of the proposed upgraded automated vision-driven laser insect control prototype. These domestic cockroaches contaminate food, furnishings, and electrical equipment. They are also a severe health risk because they can cause allergic reactions and the onset of asthma.

The upgraded laser insect control prototype employed galvanometer mirrors powered by a neural network algorithm to target moving German cockroaches more effectively in a controlled setting. 

Based on the laser’s strength, this investigation showed that the laser insect control prototype could effectively neutralize and prevent German cockroaches at a certain distance.

Laser insect control may provide a practical, considerate, and affordable option to reduce the population of German cockroaches and other insects in various contexts. 

Proof-of-Principle Laser Pest Control Investigation

The proposed laser pest control system was created by an automated machine vision for eliminating and discouraging moving insect pests. 

A Jetson Nano single-board computer that used deep learning techniques (neural networks) for object detection and training controlled the laser beam in the laser pest control gadget through galvanometer mirrors. Since its accuracy depended on various elements, including hardware, a neural network model, a dataset, and other considerations, machine vision was the system's limiting component.

Two motors powered two orthogonal mirrors (X and Y mirrors) that made up the galvanometer scanner system. The voltages given to the X mirror and Y mirror caused specific rotational angles in the mirrors.

The authors employed Blattella germanica to test the laser system's efficacy for pest control. A pet store provided a colony of 150 such German cockroaches with a 1:1 ratio of nymphs to adults.

Four cockroaches per box were the maximum number of objects that could be rapidly and effectively tracked using the neural network method. Groups of four Blattella germanica per box were employed to evaluate the precision of the laser pest control prototype in neutralizing roaming German cockroaches in the box. Five groups of German cockroaches served as controls.

Cockroaches typically moved at a rate of 1.3 meters per second with an error of no more than 10%. Cockroaches in the laser groups traveled farther than those in the control groups since the latter were not affected by the thermal action of the laser.

Laser Insect Control and Environmental Sustainability

The authors discussed the creation of a laser insect control device that was safe, small, inexpensive, and energy-efficient and was operated by machine vision. This laser insect control device could affect and neutralize the activity of insect pests while also being environmentally beneficial.

The laser insect control device also employed the GitHub open-source database containing all the technical information and the GPL-3.0 license for its investigations. It was crucial to remember that the proposed laser insect control gadget could only be employed in places with a low risk of the laser beam striking an unintended living specimen.

The research findings demonstrated that at higher laser power settings, the laser insect control device could selectively neutralize freely moving German cockroaches at distances greater than 1 m.

This laser insect control device could precisely and consistently project heat at 300 mm, encouraging the cockroach's heat escape response and changing their behavior. Despite these results, the laser insect control device that counted German cockroaches occasionally malfunctioned, preventing calculating how many lasers were needed.

Even if the laser insect control prototype was appropriate for academic research, there were several variables to consider before considering the widespread use of this technology. The risk of the laser beam striking the eyes was one of the primary restrictions.

This technology might be effective in robot-driven applications or where a fast laser speed is unnecessary, such as weed management. The laser insect control prototypes had installation costs that did not surpass several hundred dollars and could even be as little as $30.

This investigation served as proof-of-concept evidence that the automated laser insect control prototype was a practical and affordable method for controlling insects. Additional advancements would enable the creation of a tool that could target weeds and other insect pests more effectively in various circumstances.


Rakhmatulin, I., Lihoreau, M., Pueyo, J. (2022) Selective neutralisation and deterring of cockroaches with laser automated by machine vision. Oriental Insects.

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Pritam Roy

Written by

Pritam Roy

Pritam Roy is a science writer based in Guwahati, India. He has his B. E in Electrical Engineering from Assam Engineering College, Guwahati, and his M. Tech in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from IIT Guwahati, with a specialization in RF & Photonics. Pritam’s master's research project was based on wireless power transfer (WPT) over the far field. The research project included simulations and fabrications of RF rectifiers for transferring power wirelessly.


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