Making sense of mosquitoes with machine learning

How do bumblebees land on a flower? Does LED lighting in their greenhouse affect their pollination activities? How can you best combat the deadly malaria mosquito? Smart software can be a useful tool in answering such questions. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) professor Florian Muijres and his team are teaching computers to recognise the flight movements of insects and birds. They hope this will help them to better understand animal behaviour.

The professor of Experimental Zoology is quite open about his admiration for insects. “They have small brains with relatively little processing power, yet they are capable of exhibiting complex behaviour. Think of mosquitoes that avoid fly swats, and bumblebees that land precisely on a moving flower. Insects do this perfectly.”

Muijres’ admiration for the behaviour of insects is closely connected to his expertise in technology. He studied Aviation and Aerospace Technology at Delft University of Technology and now he works at WUR, where he’s figuring out how animals that fly function in a changing natural environment with human influences. “I have always watched birds as a hobby and was particularly interested in watching them fly. It’s really cool to finally understand how that works.”

We install cameras on the house that let us track up to a million mosquito flight movements
Professor Florian Muijres