Bug-Sniffing Dog Protects Pepper Crops in Canada

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Dogs are not only our best friends, but they’re sources of help in situations where pesticides won’t work. In response to a pepper weevil infestation last year, a Canadian farm has taken a dog on as a pest control staff member.

NatureFresh Farms in Leamington, Ontario had a big bug problem last year. More particularly, a little bug known as the pepper weevil caused big trouble, and destroyed bell pepper crops.

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Pest control experts and farmers alike had a horrible time getting things under control, and so this year, NatureFresh Farms looked to man’s best friend to help a farmer out. Yep, they got a dog, trained and registered to find the pepper weevil.

Chili is the newest member of their team, says Cam Lyons, who is an integrated pest management scout at NatureFresh Farms. He says that to the best of their knoweldge, Chili is the only dog in the world looking for this little pest in a greenhouse.

Chili is just two-years-old, with all the rambunctiousness that a puppy can muster, and is a Belgian Shepherd bred in Mexico. Her only mission, and what she was trained for before NatureFresh brought her on, is to find the pepper weevil before it finds and destroys all the bell pepper crops again.

Lyons said that the pepper weevil is difficult to control with traditional methods. The females lay eggs on top of the pepper, and then when the eggs hatch, the new insects feed on the pepper and kill the plant.

Related: The Secret to a Happy Dog is to Let Them Get Their Sniff On

But now, with Chili essentially playing daily games of hide-and-seek, her handler, Tina Heide, says that she sniffs out walls, floors and crates to ensure the little buggers aren’t around. Since they’ve not found any pepper weevils this year, Heide keeps some vials of the pests to keep Chili’s nose up to sniff when it comes to looking for them on the regular, as there is no way of knowing when or where they’ll come and hit the crops. Heide says it’s important that Chili keeps the scent in her mind and nose.

And Chili loves it…thinks playing games all day with her buddies is the best thing ever, and clearly enjoys her work. Lyons says that he believes a scent-detection dog would be of value on every farm and they are thrilled to have Chili on theirs!

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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