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The use of insecticides to increase aviation safety


Tyler Beckerman, Wildlife Specialist, USDA Wildlife Services, Whiteman AFB:


During 1995-2018, bird–aircraft collisions (bird strikes) cost the United States Air Force (USAF) more than $817.5 million, excluding the cost of personnel injuries, and were the cause of 27 human fatalities. Implementation of management actions to reduce the presence and abundance of hazardous birds on and around military airfields is critical for safe aircraft operations. Integrated wildlife damage management programs combine a variety of non-lethal and lethal management tools to reduce presence of hazardous birds. Managing prey populations (e.g., insects) on airfields is a potential management tool that has not been well studied. The objective of our study was to determine if insecticide applications on airfields can (1) reduce insect populations and (2) reduce the abundance of insectivorous birds hazardous to aircraft operations. At three USAF installations and one civilian airport in the Midwest, we established six plots at each study airfield, and implemented a before/after-control/treatment study design. Insect populations were sampled each week using a sweep netting method and bird populations were quantified using weekly systematic point–count surveys from May through September of 2019 and 2020. Insecticide treatments were applied to three of the six study plots at each airfield during the second field season (2020). We used a Bayesian framework and Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling to determine and compare insect and bird abundances before and after the insecticide treatments were applied. Initial results indicate changes in insect and bird populations on the airfields. Results from our study will help inform airfield managers on how to better manage airfield environments to reduce avian hazards to aircraft.

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