Infrared Photoelectric Sensor Network Applied to
Remote Arthropod Insects’ Surveillance
Federico Gaona
, Ever Quiñonez
, Adolfo Jara
, Ariel Manabe
, Norma Silva
, Magna Monteiro
Christian E. Schaerer
, María Celeste Vega
and Antonieta Rojas de Arias
Polytechnic School, National University of Asuncion, Mcal. Estigarribia km 11, Asuncion, Paraguay
Center for the Development of Scientific Research, Manduvira 635, Asuncion, Paraguay
{mcvegagomez, rojasdearias}
Keywords: Arthropod, Monitoring, System, Photoelectric, Infrared, Sensors.
Abstract: This work presents a monitoring system trap to detect the presence of arthropod insects in a remote
surveillance zone. Detections are made using sensor traps that are installed in twenty houses of an indigenous
village of the Paraguayan Chaco in South America, where the insects that transmit Chagas disease are pressing
to infest the area. Pheromone baits are used to ensure the attraction of Triatoma infestans. For detecting
variations of the light due to insect intrusion, trap entrances have photoelectric infrared sensors. Once the
insect is detected, the information is collected and transmitted to an Internet database storage server. More
than 750 intrusions were detected during nine months, the highest number of detections occurred when the
temperature ranged between 20 °C and 34 °C, relative humidity average less than 30% and the precipitation
was less than 1.5 mm. This new result provides evidence of the T. infestans activity at different times of the
day and month, and its relationship with certain environmental variables. These findings contribute to
reorientate surveillance procedures, validate the monitoring system proposal and give important information
on the vector's life activity.
Chagas disease or American Trypanosomiasis is an
important endemic parasitosis considered a public
health problem in Latin American countries (Acosta et
al., 2002; WHO, 2015). It is caused by a parasite
named Trypanosoma cruzi and is transmitted mainly
by an insect scientifically named Triatoma infestans
(Hemiptera: Reduviidae), colloquially known as
vinchuca in the Southern Cone of Latin American
(Lent and Wygodzinsky, 1979; Clayton, 2010).
Despite the substantial success of the Southern Cone
Initiative to control the triatomine vector, persistent
reinfestation in the Grand Chaco regions of Bolivia,
Paraguay, and northern Argentina (Clayton, 2010;
Gurtler et al., 2008; Brener et al., 2000), especially
among indigenous villages, where prevalence rates are
extraordinarily high and clinical Chagas disease is
severe. In addition, these towns are threatened by the
incursion of sylvatic triatomines which could establish
the circulation of new strains in peridomestic and
domestic areas (Ceballos et al. 2009).
The effectiveness of preventing and early
attention of this disease relies on controlling its vector
to interrupt the Trypanosoma cruzi transmission
(Rojas de Arias and Villalba de Feltes, 2011).
However, controlling the vector is difficult,
especially in isolated regions, such as the Grand
Chaco. This region has the characteristic of having
very dispersed rural populations, and in most cases
with limited accessibility (a typical dwelling is shown
in Figure 1). Currently, this region still presents high
levels and persistent infection by Trypanosoma cruzi
(Marconcini, 2008).
T. infestans (“kissing bugs” or “barber bug”) is a
blood-feeding relatively large bug of about 35 mm in
length (Ariel et al. 2014). Morphologically, it is
divided in three major segments: head, thorax, and
abdomen. The mouthparts are adapted for piercing
and sucking. It lives in cracks and crevices houses,
usually in rural areas. The feces of the insects can
contain parasites that can enter the wound left after
the blood meal, usually when it is scratched or
rubbed. This situation normally happens at night.
There are other modes of infection (contaminated
Gaona, F., Quiñonez, E., Jara, A., Manabe, A., Silva, N., Monteiro, M., Schaerer, C., Vega, M. and Rojas de Arias, A.
Infrared Photoelectric Sensor Network Applied to Remote Arthropod Insects’ Surveillance.
DOI: 10.5220/0010793400003118
In Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Sensor Networks (SENSORNETS 2022), pages 113-120
ISBN: 978-989-758-551-7; ISSN: 2184-4380
2022 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
food, transfusion of infected blood products,
congenital infection and organs transplantation) and
it can also infect several household animals or closely
boarded livestock, and wild animals.
For controlling the T. infestans in Paraguay, the
National Program for Chagas Disease Control works
actively in its elimination in dwellings and
neighborhoods using chemical insecticides. Once
localities are sprayed, entomological surveillance is
set, mainly by health-trained personal and throughout
denounce, to detect new reinfestations. In the Chaco
region, the reinfestation is considered fast, the human
monitoring is costly and denounces is rare because
inhabitants just perceive the presence of insects when
they are already installed inside the dwellings.
Moreover, the efficiency of this strategy is seriously
compromised since the insects develop resistance to
insecticides (Echeverria et al (2018). Pérez-Estiga-
rribia et al. 2020) and prospecting visits at homes are
made only every six months due to the high distance,
displacement, with high costs of trained (Rojas de
Arias et al., 2012). In addition, it should be considered
that the detection of triatomines by manual capture
has low efficiency and efficacy.
Figure 1: Study setting. The typical indigenous dwelling
from the study area in the Paraguayan Chaco.
Box sensors were initially proposed by (Gómez and
Nuñez, 1965) and even tested in villages (Rojas de
Arias et al., 2012; Collim, 1987). Most of these
methods provide shelter for the triatomines and
facilitate their detection inside; however, to date, no
sensor for surveillance has reached the stage of
massive implementation for surveillance of
intradomiciliary triatomines (Marsden and Penna,
1982; García et al., 1985). The most recently reported
sensors concentrate their attention on attraction to the
box by means of attractant pheromones (Rojas de
Arias et al., 2012).
Although, the attraction and capture strategy has
been demonstrated as the most convenient action to
detect the presence of the insect (Bosa et al., 2008;
Salas, 2008; Fontán, 2002), two crucial problems still
remain: (1) the box and the pheromone release must
adapt to the dry climate and working temperature; and
(2) frequent monitoring by qualified persons are
required to obtain information on reinfestation or
repopulation of triatomines due to control failures.
Problem (1) directly affects the efficiency in
attracting the insect. The reinfestation process can be
performed in a period relatively large. Hence the
attractor can lose effectiveness. Problem (2) affects
the decision-maker since the information about the
new insect installation (an effective reinfestation)
arrives with a considerable delay introducing high
uncertainty in the effectiveness of the corrective
The speed of pheromone release for increasing
attractiveness efficiency was studied (Aquino, 2012,
Monteiro et al., 2017), which proposes and proves the
effectiveness in laboratory, using biomaterial pellets
instead of polyethylene bags as a pheromone release
mechanism. In parallel, to minimize the delay of
having the information, during 2011 and 2012, a first
model of an electronic device for automatically
detecting the T. infestans intrusion in a box was
presented (Montero and Serra, 2011). The Chaco is
normally a hostile place for electronic devices. This is
mainly due to the high temperatures with an abrupt
change of them, the excess of very fine dust and the
lack of constant electrical energy supplies. Therefore,
a new model device was posteriorly designed for
improving the electronic and adapting it to the working
environment. Moreover, decision tree software was
incorporated for identifying the T. infestans intrusion
or eventually other species of secondary arthropod
attracted (Gaona et al., 2014; Gaona et al., 2019).
The proposal of this work consists in using a
remote sensing trap with pheromone as an attractor
for detecting online the presence of triatomines and
transmitting the information directly to the decision-
makers. Since this is permanent monitoring, it
improves the chances of obtaining information about
a reinfestation in an early stage. This strategy will
also minimize the cost of unnecessary human
displacement and monitoring, optimizing the limited
resources when having specific and well-localizing
information about the reinfestation. Likewise, this
work also proposes a system of environmental
monitoring of some variables of interest, such as
humidity and temperature, to obtain information
about the life activity of the vector with respect to the
The novelties of this article are: 1) the validation
of an early detection system, through field
implementation, detecting and obtaining real-time
SENSORNETS 2022 - 11th International Conference on Sensor Networks
measurement values of intrusion (reinfestation) by
the T. infestans of a sprayed region, and the contrast
of results with experts in the area; 2) the finding of
environmental variables and situations related to
more activity of the arthropod. The latter is
particularly important to develop surveillance
procedures and to understand the life activity of the
T. infestans.
The article is structured as follows. In Section 2,
a description of the region of monitoring, as well as
the description of the components of the trap. Section
3 presents the results of the intervention of
monitoring; and the conclusion are presented in
Section 4.
2.1 Study Site and Trap Installations
Traps with a sensor network were installed in this
village. Twenty dwellings were selected for this
study. Each dwelling is separated from each other by
approximately 100 meters. A sensor trap was
installed in each chicken coop located in the
peridomicile. In some houses, two traps were
installed, one in the chicken coop and one inside the
dwelling. In the center of the village was located the
data hub and gateway. The farthest trap was 600
meters. Throughout the village, the total coverage
range was about 1100 meters.
Figure 2 shows an example of the appearance and
installation of the trap in a dwelling and its
subsequent manual verification without sensors.
Figure 2: Chemically baited sticky trap used for Chagas
disease vector surveillance. (A), outer aspect; (B),
triatomines caught in the entomological glue inside a trap;
(C), installing the trap.
2.2 System Description
Figure 3 shows the components of the arthropod
remote monitoring system.
2.2.1 Trap with Sensors
In Figure 4, it is possible to observe the basic diagram
of the trap with sensors. The four infrared
photoelectric sensors are connected to a
microcontroller based on a Microchip® PIC16F1825,
chosen for being low power and accessible cost,
compact and with the required functionalities, such as
analog ports, internal oscillator, digital
communication, among others. The reports on
intrusions of an arthropod into the trap are sent
through the RF module. At each specified and
constant period, the Gateway report the information
to the monitoring data center through the Internet.
Each trap is prepared to work outdoors, anticipating
aggressive weather conditions, using adapted 10-liter
bottles to protect the trap without interfering with its
Figure 3: components of the arthropod remote monitoring
2.2.2 Adjusting
For calibration and tuning sensors, some T. infestans
have been used in several stages of formation and
several color tonalities. The color is important since
the infrared photoelectric sensors detect intrusion by
light reflection (Giron, 1998); hence it may affect
detection efficiency (Gaona et al., 2014).
Infrared Photoelectric Sensor Network Applied to Remote Arthropod Insects’ Surveillance
Figure 4: Basic scheme of the top view of a trap with
2.2.3 Bait
Pheromones are organic compounds emitted by
insects, they are chemical messengers that provoke a
response in other individuals of the same species,
forcing them to opt for a certain type of behavior
(Simon, 1994; Blanco, 2004). There are several types
of pheromones including sexual, aggregation, tracer,
alarm, dissuasive, etc., depending on the type of
reaction they cause (Simon, 1994). These
pheromones are used by insects to modify their
behavior, either by the phenomenon of mating (sexual
pheromone), search for food (pheromone tracer), the
grouping of individuals in colonies (pheromone
aggregation), for the stimulation of flight or defense
(alarm pheromone), among others. For the specific
case of the triatomines, where some species are
vectors of Chagas disease, stridulation has been cited
(action of producing sound by the friction of certain
parts of the body) as a possible mechanism of
communication between the sexes in T. infestans.
Among other mechanisms of interest is the olfactory,
which involves pheromones, a more intraspecific
communication mechanism in insects, if we compare
them with other alternatives such as vision and sound
(Manrique, 2010).
According to studies made with different
materials (hydroxyapatite, kaolin, Pyrex glass, and
amber glass), porous granules of kaolin were used as
slow-release systems of benzaldehyde for the traps
attracting T. infestans, since this was the one that
presented the best results during the liberation tests
by weighing and assays in vivo with T. infestans in
the laboratory (Aquino, 2012).
2.2.4 Gateway
It is located in the center of the village (study site) and
consists of a cabinet for electrical and electronic
components (basically schematized in Figure 5). It is
composed of AC voltage input (220 Vac), two circuit
breakers, uninterrupted power system (UPS),
switching DC power supplies (for 5 and 12 Volts
outputs), programmable communication module by
radio frequency (IEEE 802.15.4 XBee-based),
Arduino-based primary microcontroller (chosen for
the ease of programming thanks to the free software
and hardware community with modular
functionalities required for this work), SD memory
module, display LCD module + keypad, 4G-LTE
module, sensors and interfaces for the portable
weather station. It also has a special coolant system
(using a compact 220 Vac fan), insect and dust filter,
as well water.
Figure 5: Basic scheme of Gateway.
The system must operate with the following
characteristics: (1) User interface via display LCD-
keypad module. (2) 4G-LTE and text message (SMS)
communication with the servers on the Internet. (3)
Record of events in SD memory. (4) Interaction with
the UPS to determine the power supply. (5) Reading
of indoor and outdoor temperature sensors,
atmospheric pressure, humidity, direction and speed
of the wind, amount of rain falling. (6) Wireless
communication via RF with traps to be in the
2.2.5 Monitoring Interface
It consists of a web application developed in PHP
with PostgreSQL database hosted on a datacenter
server accessible from the Internet. It allows online
monitoring, as well as having an automatic histogram
image related to the data recorded in a previously
specified time range. Reports can have the following
information from the traps: electrical supply
problems, number of detections by day, and trap.
From the meteorological station: wind direction and
SENSORNETS 2022 - 11th International Conference on Sensor Networks
velocity, relative humidity, amount of rainfall,
atmospheric pressure, internal and external
2.2.6 Networking
The RF module is the XBee-PRO 2.4 GHz of Digi®
(IEEE 802.15.4 protocol) with Router mode settings
for intermediate nodes and external nodes as End
Device mode. In this way, a trap (node) that is located
far from the center of the village can reach the
Gateway throughout the routers in several ways
forming a network of smart sensors. Since 128 bits of
the address are used in the RF module, it is possible
to have up to 2128 different nodes in one location.
2.2.7 Power Supply
Many indigenous villages in Paraguay do not have
electricity. In the case of Tiberia (the study site), there
is only one electrical power network in the center (a
church) only. The Gateway is on this site. Sensor
traps need a 3.3 V battery-powered supply system
with solar recharge. Therefore, the topology used
consists of an MPPT converter and charger module
(CN3722) for lithium cells (shown in Figure 6). This
module accepts an input voltage range of 7.5 to 28
Volts and operates at a frequency of 300 kHz. It has a
load capacity of 5 Amps. The solar panel used is 20
Watts, in this way, the battery could run out after a
couple of days without adequate sunlight, and when
there is good sunlight again, the sensor traps will
automatically restart.
When the Gateway detects the lack of network
power, it reports via SMS to a predetermined
telephone number. When its battery runs out and then
the grid power returns, it automatically restarts and
after 1 minute it is ready to receive and transmit
detections from the sensor network again.
Figure 6: Basic scheme of the trap with sensors power
The system installed in the 20 indigenous dwellings
for nine months worked robustly. Insect intrusions
were efficiently detected by the infrared sensor
system, as well as temperature, relative humidity and
rainfall records.
The monitoring system allowed mainly knowing
the level of activity of triatomines per dwelling, since
the traps were identified physically and digitally.
Therefore, the web interface of the computer system
recorded the events in detail, such as date, time, trap
identifier and variables of the portable weather station
every 30 seconds, with date and time: wind direction,
wind speed, amount of rainfall, ambient temperature,
and relative humidity.
Figure 7: Percentage graph of the number of detections
(values shown) versus relative humidity, ambient
temperature (values shown) and the amount of rainfall for
9 months.
There were more than 600,000 records of
meteorological information and more than 750
detections (filtering and eliminating successive
counts) in 9 months of service. Since other insects can
activate the alarms accidentally, detection follows
criteria introduced in (Gaona et al., 2014). This is a
caution flag that is alerted by software in case of
detecting an intrusion that remains activated. Only
after 30 minutes of inactivity, the flag is disabling.
After this, the sensor passes to the position of
“waiting” for the next detection (intrusion).
Figure 7 shows the behavior of the insect
throughout the 9 months of field testing. Make a
percentage comparison with some climatic variables.
It is important to note that when precipitation was
minimal, relative humidity was 30 % or less and
temperature below 30 °C, higher triatomine activity
Infrared Photoelectric Sensor Network Applied to Remote Arthropod Insects’ Surveillance
was observed. Month 2 was the most prolific month
in terms of detections (Figures 7-8). In this period, the
control field personnel performed an on-site
corroboration when the detection alarm occurred. The
most important results in this analysis period are the
verification that the detections have a strong
correlation with T. infestans or other triatomine
species activity in or around the sensor traps.
However, in a normal monitoring situation (without
expert personal verification), if multiple traps are
activated, this means high triatomine activity,
therefore there would be a high probability that there
is intense pressure to install a new process of
infestation. It is important to note that the number of
T. infestans detections during the months was
decreasing. Some of this may be due to the summer
heat with high average rainfall, where the number of
detections decreased abruptly, or it could be due to
the decreased attractiveness of the pheromone
Figure 8: Number of arthropod T. infestans detected during
9 months for each trap. Traps with zero detections are not
Figure 9: Activity of T. infestans per hour for 9 months.
Computational records also allow us to determine
which trap has the highest of T. infestans activity, as
can be seen in Figure 8, trap number 2 that is fully
identified with an indigenous home and family,
therefore, that dwelling is the one that has a higher
presence of T. infestans activity.
Figure 9 shows the time when the T. infestans had
the highest activity. It can be seen as from 07:00 p.m.
the presence of T. infestans begins to increase until
09:00 p.m. This is because the chickens begin to sleep
at that time. Only night hours are considered due to
the characteristics of the insect.
Multiple entrances of an insect can be detected by
the sensors. It is important to remark that in
laboratory observations this behavior does not exceed
in 10 % of the cases (Gaona et al., 2014). Multiple
entrances will affect the density accounting.
However, since this work is interested in the early
detection of the insect, hence multiple entrances will
not significantly affect the results. By contrast, it
denotes a high level of vector activity, and in
consequence, a higher probability to identify them in
an early process of reinfestation to control it, avoiding
a new potential set up of the parasite transmission
inside the dwellings.
After nine months operating properly in an aggressive
arid environmental, the autonomous trap (conformed
in a wireless mesh network sensor monitoring
system) has demonstrated a robust behavior. The
system allows identifying rapidly the presence of
arthropod insects inside the trap, and the temporal-
geographical distribution. It is important to remark
that this is the first time it is collected meteorological
data and insect behavior in its attempt to invade
places previously sprayed by an insecticide. The
results show an increase in vital activity of T.
infestans under certain environmental circumstances.
This evidence could contribute to reorient
surveillance procedures to detect reinfestation early
and minimize the probability of installing Chagas
disease transmission cycles in the intervened
The system presented has the possibility of being
regionally scalable in Latin America countries where
Chagas disease vector surveillance is a priority in
endemic areas (18 of 21 countries of America). The
system is affordable in terms of cost and is a tool for
early detection of infestation or reinfestation of the
main vectors of Chagas disease in the region, either
inside dwellings or in the peridomestic areas, during
the entomological surveillance phase.
MM, CS, MCV and ARdA are benefited from The
National Program of Incentive to the Investigator
SENSORNETS 2022 - 11th International Conference on Sensor Networks
(PRONII in Spanish) from the National Council of
Science and Technology (CONACYT), Paraguay.
We thank Mr. Koji Kurita for his fieldwork logistic
support. To Estación Experimental Chaco Central
(MAG) for hosting the research team and to Tiberia
inhabitants who have always supported our work.
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