Durango Telegraph - Resarchers uncover 'sonic bullets'
Resarchers uncover 'sonic bullets'

A team of scientists is hailing a new discovery as “Beetle Mania.” In a Northern Arizona University School of Forestry lab, researchers believe they have found a new way to protect Western forests from attack. They are firing back at spruce, mountain pine and IPS beetles with the sounds of Rush Limbaugh, Queen, Guns N’ Roses and manipulated sounds of the bugs themselves.

“Our interest is to use acoustic sounds that make beetles uncomfortable and not want to be in that environment,” said NAU professor Richard Hofstetter.

Reagan McGuire, a truck-driver-turned-research assistant, persuaded Hofstetter that the pair could alter beetle behavior by producing acoustic stress. “I thought, ‘What would be the nastiest, most offensive sound?’” McGuire said. “To me, that would be Rush Limbaugh or heavy metal.”

Using tiny speakers like those in musical greeting cards, researchers piped rock music and Limbaugh commentary played backward into infested trees. The scientists also started firing the insects’ own sounds back at them.

“We found we could disrupt mating, tunneling and reproduction,” Hofstetter said. “We could even make the beetles turn on each other, which normally they would not do.”

Encouraged by the results, the team is currently seeking funding to help them continue looking for the sound – perhaps ultrasound – that can be used strategically to keep beetles from damaging individual or entire stands of trees.

– Will Sands

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