There’s an app for that?

Homeowners and pest-control technicians have a new option for identifying bugs lurking in houses and other buildings — an app for the iPhone.

The downloadable application, which was developed by researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, provides colour photos and text describing almost 40 pest species.

Called iPest1, it is one of the first mobile-phone apps dealing with pest insects. It is compatible with Apple mobile devices including the popular iPhone and sells for $1.99 (£1.33).

’Proper identification of pests is crucial in effective pest management. I wanted to have a mobile guide to household pests, to help educate people,’ said University of Florida entomologist Rebecca Baldwin, principal developer. ’I couldn’t find one, so we ended up creating one.’

The app focuses on four topics: cockroaches, filth-breeding flies, pests that occasionally enter dwellings and pest droppings. Many of the species included are found nationwide or even worldwide, but the selection leans toward pests common in the southeastern US, Baldwin added.

Each species is shown in a colour photo and actual-size silhouette. The images are accompanied by text that includes common and scientific names, habitat, biology, behaviour and distribution. Users can enlarge photos and activate links to related University of Florida documents.

The idea came about more than a year ago, when Baldwin bought an iPhone and began browsing educational wildlife apps and soon realised there was almost nothing to help people identify pests.

After polling pest-control industry personnel, Baldwin found there was significant interest in an iPhone app. So, with a grant from the Florida Co-operative Extension Service — the outreach arm of the University of Florida’s agriculture programme — she spent much of late 2009 and early 2010 developing iPest1.

Proceeds from iPest1 — which has sold close to 100 units since the release in early May — will be used toward the development of additional apps in the iPest series.

Professionals have already begun using iPest1. Linda Prentice, a certified associate entomologist with BugOut Service, a northeast Florida-based pest control company, said she has had the app for two weeks and it has drawn interest from many colleagues.

The app can also help pest-control technicians educate customers about organisms found during inspections, said Allen Fugler Jr, executive vice-president of the Orlando-based Florida Pest Management Association.

Al Hoffer’s Pest Protection Inc.

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