Military robot deploys CO2 to lure ticks to their doom

This rover could patrol your yard, coaxing ticks onto fabric laced with insecticide. Early tests have shown it's very effective.

Tick Rover
The Tick Rover travels along a hose that emits CO2. Virginia Military Institute

Ticks are repulsive, blood-sucking, disease-carrying parasites that can do serious harm to people. They deserve no less than robotic death from above.

Thank the Maker, then, that researchers at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) have developed a tick-slaying robot that uses carbon dioxide to pretend it's an animal.

The prospect of a blood meal leads the arachnids to their doom. The robot kills 75 to 100 percent of the ticks in its path.

"The only thing more successful is chemical spray," Jim Squire, professor of electrical and computer engineering and project manager, said in a release.

The Tick Rover is in its third generation. It rolls around on four wheels, following a tube that emits CO2 and dragging an insecticide-laced cloth behind it.

The technique is similar to tick dragging with large cloths, used by researchers to harvest the bugs.

The ticks, which can sense distant vibrations and small amounts of CO2, mistake the robot for an animal, scuttle toward the tube, and wait for the robot to pass. When they latch on to it, the poison gets them.

The idea for a tick-killing machine cam to Squire after he found ticks on his toddler years ago.

Public concern about ticks returns every summer. In June, a 6-year-old girl from North Carolina died from Rocky Mountain spotted fever after being bitten by a tick in Texas.

In VMI's initial tests conducted at the tick-infested Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation in Portsmouth, Va., only one in 10 ticks survived. Later tests found zero survivors.

The researchers will now focus on how soon an area will repopulate with ticks, with an eye to commercializing the robot as a domestic tick destroyer.

Since it uses permethrin, an effective tick poison used by professionals, the robot could be sold to exterminators instead of consumers. Another feature of the robot is that it doesn't leave pesticide in the environment.

Check out a report on the device in the vid below.

WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

 

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