05/28/2015 10:43 EDT | Updated 05/28/2016 05:59 EDT

University of Manitoba gets up close and personal with insects

New camera equipment in the University of Manitoba's entomology department has researchers taking vividly detailed photos of insects that they say will help farmers make better decisions about pest management. 

The camera set up, installed in April, involves the co-ordination of a desktop computer, a standard Canon DSLR camera and an automated rail that moves and controls the camera. It gives images of tiny insects so detailed one can literally count the hairs on their heads. 

"My favourite image produced so far is the tachinid fly. The photo really illustrates how stunning in appearance even dull, unremarkable insects can be when viewed up close," said Jordan Bannerman, an instructor in the department and the primary user of the new camera equipment.

So far the equipment has been most useful for research done by entomology professor Barb Sharanowski, who received funding for it from the Western Grains Research Foundation and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Agricultural advantage

Sharanowski is working with the university's plant sciences department to create a mobile app to identify and manage insects, weeds, and diseases in field crops across Western Canada. 

The high resolution pictures will help farmers to correctly recognize pests in their crops and help the app to develop risk maps of the field intruders. 

Ultimately, Sharanowski thinks the app will help farmers to make better decisions about pest management.

"Our goal is to reduce the overuse of pesticides for healthier food, a better functioning environment, and to decrease the likelihood of resistance of pests to chemicals," Sharanowski said.