Light Debugging

Yellow mellows a pine in the neck

Written by and      

Steve Pawson

How many lightbulbs does it take to change the way we control pests? Hundreds, in a trial at the Port of Tauranga, where white industrial bulbs have been swapped for models that emit only yellow-spectrum light.

It’s hoped that the new lamps, being installed by the crown research institute Scion, will deter nocturnal insects such as the burnt pine longhorn beetle, which could stow away on export logs and sawn timber.

Dr Steve Pawson, the project leader, says white lights transmit in the very wavelengths insects find attractive, luring millions to the Mt Maunganui port, a 24-hour operation, every night.

Flying insects’ vision is geared towards shorter blue, black and ultraviolet wavelengths, so it’s hoped they will avoid the new long-wavelength yellow lamps, making it possible to phase out traditional methyl bromide fumigants and shift to this more environmentally acceptable way of controlling pests.