The Canadian Grain Commision (CGC) launched two online, dichotomous keys to help producers identify stored grain insect pests today. I took a test run of the keys, and found them to be fast, simple and totally within my budget (free) — so, nothing like their paper counterparts.
A dichotomous key is relatively simple to use, as it only asks one question at a time, with two possible answers. In the case of the aforementioned CGC dichotomous key, it begins by asking a very simple question: what is the length of the insect?
Now, you can likely remember an insect’s approximate size on your walk from the bin to the office, but it’s probably best to capture one of the critters you intend to identify, as the questions will increase slightly in complexity as you move through the questionnaire. If your eyes are beginning to fail you (or you typically set up the computer on the other side of your house before reading RealAg news), may I suggest having a magnifying glass on hand as well?
So, where are we? Insect, computer, the dichotomous key (here) and a magnifying glass. Good. No need to place an order for The Dictionary of Entomology Terms You’ll Never Remember. One of the bonuses of working online is that if you stumble on a question with entomological jargon, it’s pretty easy to open a new tab and either search the web or ask an entomologist on Twitter. You’ll have your answer to “What is a pronotum?” in no time.
I know what you’re thinking. All this is swell, but why not just snap a photo and send it to an expert right off the bat? Well, I don’t know about your superior phone, but mine doesn’t quite do justice to the intricacies of insect characteristics (especially at less than 1mm in length), and even an entomologist can’t identify an insect in a blurry picture. Besides, I rather like finding answers on my own.
For those of you wondering how the site works on mobile phones, I tested it on my moderately-intelligent phone (it’s a Blackberry – go ahead, give me guff), and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Our iphone/android/agnerd readers will likely find it even more agreeable.
Have you had issues with stored-grain insect pests? Would a dichotomous key have been beneficial?