Photo/IllutrationA pine sawyer beetle causes pine wilt. (Shinichi Mishima)

TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Prefecture--A group of researchers has found that “good vibrations” will scare off insect pests that cause pine wilt across Japan.

The scientists, primarily from the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, created equipment to produce 100 vibrations a second to drive off the pine sawyer beetle, which flees when pine trunks are shaken by walking woodpeckers and other predators.

The conventional method of treating pines with pesticides to remove the insects has raised concerns about the effects on the environment.

“Using only one device has a sufficient effect on a pine tree, and the equipment can safely be used in urban parks and elsewhere,” said Takuma Takanashi, a senior researcher at the institute. “We want to commercialize a smaller and cheaper version within a few years.”

According to Takanashi, a pine sawyer beetle has sensory organs on the thighs of its six legs to detect vibrations from trees so that it can escape from natural enemies.

The team developed a 20-centimeter-long cylindrical device measuring 5 cm in diameter with a Japanese company and set up the equipment on pine trunks to test how 10 pine sawyer beetles would respond.

The scientists found two hours later that 40 percent of the beetles fled on average while those on trunks without the device remained there.

The team also tested the equipment with six female pine sawyer beetles. They laid eggs on a log free of vibrations after a night, although no eggs were laid on the log shaken by the device.

When the bark of pine is bitten by pine sawyer beetles, eelworms inside their bodies invade the tree and block vessels to transfer water from the roots, withering the pine tree.

The vibration-based technology is also expected to be effective in dealing with the whitefly, which damages tomatoes, and other insects. The scientists are working to develop a device to ward off those species.