Dogs Sniff Out Pepper Weevils in Commercial Greenhouses

A handler holds a vial containing a single pepper weevil, sniffed out by his canine partner.

Protecting crops from pest damage is a cornerstone of agriculture, and one of the world’s largest pepper producers is enlisting man’s best friend for help. Located in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, these commercial greenhouses use an integrated pest management program that now includes dogs specially trained to sniff out pepper weevils, a small destructive insect native to the region.

The dogs, two Belgian Malinois from Green Dog Pest Service, were trained in Seattle to detect the odor of live weevils. In March, after arriving in Mexico, they spent time adjusting to the climate and finishing their training on location. As well, handlers employed by the farm went through an intense three-week detection dog handling program. “We knew the dogs could detect the weevils, but in 15.5-acre greenhouses with 200,000 or more plants growing over four meters tall, searching for tiny flying insects isn’t easy,” says Deanna Sparks-Kjorlien, President of Green Dog Pest Service.

On July 27, the World Detection Dog Organization sent an official to the farm to test the canine teams using a randomized, double-blind testing methodology. The teams were required to search approximately 500 meters of bell pepper plants for small vials containing weevils, in under 20 minutes. Neither team missed a vial, and there were no false alerts.

“The dogs’ detection of weevils has enabled us…to prevent high infestation,” says the farm’s Canine Program Director. “We have determined the dogs are 70% more efficient at finding the weevils than the human scouts.”

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