Using new light technology for zapping rural bugs

Insecticides have long helped fight off diseases transmitted by some insects. They have also helped increase crop production in farms and other rural areas. However, they are not without issues. Several insecticides are correlated to cancer, birth defects and other human health problems. Wildlife decline is also being attributed to them.

Insects – especially mosquitoes – are a problem anywhere, not just in rural areas. But the triumphs of modern biodynamic and organic farming are a sign that we might be able to do away with artificial insecticides. Recent developments in lighting technology might soon offer unexpected chemical substitutes: light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and lasers.

The concept of using light to fight off bugs isn’t really new. Most bug zappers, for example, have long exploited the affinity of bugs to light. Green and yellow fluorescent lights are also usually utilized to decrease bug activity in an area. A reflective mulching sheet, when positioned between crop rows, will repel whiteflies and aphids.

But recent developments in lighting technology might soon enable more innovative methods, a few of which might ultimately help decrease the consumption of insecticides. For example, LED technology was borne out of the desire for energy efficiency, but such purpose is now closely rivaled by its other advantages like pest control and light therapy.

One of the most innovative methods, the photonic fence, utilizes lasers to “tag” and zap down flying mosquitoes (kind of like anti-air turrets). Detractors have said that it’s not feasible, because mosquitoes are usually found in rural areas of poor countries where the supply of electricity is unreliable. But thanks to developments in energy technology, the photonic fence now runs on solar power.

Current prototypes of the photonic fence were made to target mosquitoes, but they could be adjusted to aim at other insects as well. Hence, they could potentially be used in farms to protect crops from beetles, flies and the likes. With technology such as this, there might even come a time when rural bugs are zapped before they see the light of day.

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