Although small in size, insects are a quintessential part of terrestrial ecosystems due to their large number and diversity. While captured insects can be thoroughly studied in laboratory conditions, their population dynamics and abundance in the wild remain largely unknown due to the lack of accurate methodologies to count them. Here, we present the results of a field experiment where the activity of insects has been monitored continuously over 3 months using an entomological stand-off optical sensor (ESOS). Because its near-infrared laser is imperceptible to insects, the instrument provides an unbiased and absolute measurement of the aerial density (flying insect/m3) with a temporal resolution down to the minute. Multiple clusters of insects are differentiated based on their wingbeat frequency and ratios between wing and body optical cross-sections. The collected data allowed for the study of the circadian rhythm and daily activities as well as the aerial density dynamic over the whole campaign for each cluster individually. These measurements have been compared with traps for validation of this new methodology. We believe that this new type of data can unlock many of the current limitations in the collection of entomological data, especially when studying the population dynamics of insects with large impacts on our society, such as pollinators or vectors of infectious diseases.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes