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Author Topic: Can bees sniff out explosives?  (Read 3561 times)

Offline thedoc

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Can bees sniff out explosives?
« on: 26/06/2012 17:55:36 »
I've heard about honey bees sniffing out explosives, any updated information on this method?
Asked by Michael Malone, via Facebook


                                        Visit the webpage for the podcast in which this question is answered.

 

« Last Edit: 26/06/2012 17:55:36 by _system »


 

Offline thedoc

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Can bees sniff out explosives?
« Reply #1 on: 26/06/2012 17:55:36 »
We answered this question on the show...



Graham -   As well as dogs, you can use other animals to find explosives and bees are one of those.  Bees use several different cues to find food including the smell of sources of food, so you can train them to associate the source of food with the smell of TNT.  Then, if you grab hold of a trained bee and pass TNT vapour across it, it sticks its tongue out.  So this is an interesting new way of using animals in order to detect TNT and there's a UK company called Insentinel that are developing this biotechnology.

See also:  http://naksci.com/art/64596 _blank>"Humble Honey Bee Helping National Security" by Anna Khot.
« Last Edit: 26/06/2012 17:55:36 by _system »
 

Offline Lmnre

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Re: Can bees sniff out explosives?
« Reply #2 on: 26/06/2012 18:49:00 »
Quote
SMELLING BEE.  Using bees as chemical detectors is nothing new: Since the 1980s, researchers have experimented with using them for environmental sampling. The small hairs lining a bee, which it uses to collect pollen, picks up chemical traces and biological particles as well. Bees also inhale and consume large quantities of air and water for their size, picking up chemical traces in that manner too.

With land mines, scientists are using bees' acute sense of smell. Here's how it works: Bromenshenk, an environmental chemist at the University of Montana, developed a method by which he adds traces of the explosive byproducts into the bees' food. After one or two days, the insects naturally become attracted to the smell. When released into a minefield, the bees find their way toward the mines.

Of course, they find no actual food, and after lingering disappointedly for a few seconds, they fly off. With thousands of bees flying around, however, scientists have to be able to track these swarms.

ACCURATE SENSORS.  How? Bees are too small to detect either with the naked eye or high-resolution video at long ranges. So instead, the team employs a laser emitter that sweeps an area like radar or sonar. When the light hits a bee, it reflects, and sensors are able to tell by the reflection just where the bee is. After sweeping several times, the scientists are able to crunch the data and see statistically where the higher occurrences of bees are located.

In controlled situations, the method is extremely effective: Bees can detect very small traces of explosive vapors with 97% accuracy and are "wrong" -- that is, passing over a mine without noticing it -- less than 1% of the time.

The research team used Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, an Army base that keeps a minefield for testing purposes, as its laboratory. While none of the mines on the test field have fuses or triggers, they have real explosives. "It's not deadly, but it's not the sort of place you'd want to hammer anything into the ground, either" says Shaw.

NO NIGHT FLIGHTS.  In a head-to-head comparison of minesweepers vs. bees, the resulting maps were extremely similar in their findings. "We got pretty excited about the results" says Shaw, "The laser device we used wasn't even really built for this, so we'll be able to keep improving further, too."

Technical hurdles must still be overcome. Bees won't fly at night or in cold or stormy weather. Laser detection will work only in flat locations, as it bounces off any other objects that stand in its way. Researchers are working on improving the laser-detection technology.

Other groups have experimented with painting bees in fluorescent colors so they'll shine brightly when hit by a laser. Others are trying to mount tiny radio-frequency ID tags on the insects to track them. But someday soon mine-sweepers may be able to keep perfect track of these explosives-hungry bees, and do so at a very safe length for both dogs and minesweepers.

source
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Can bees sniff out explosives?
« Reply #3 on: 27/06/2012 10:24:30 »
I must apologise most profusely for this, the temptation is too great for me to resist.

Quote from: thedoc
......grab hold of a trained bee and pass TNT vapour across it, it sticks its tongue out.

You’d need 20/20 vision to be able to see this.

FredCome and look at this Bert, is this Bee poking its tongue out?
BertYou’re looking at the wrong end of the Bee, Fred.
FredAh! So that would be its….
BertModified ovipositor.
FredI’ve never seen it called that on the porn sites before.

Should have gone to………


Now if a certain high street optician uses this idea in its adverts, I shall expect royalties.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Can bees sniff out explosives?
« Reply #4 on: 27/06/2012 10:54:59 »
I could imagine the TSA using a swarm of bees at the screening gates...  the buzz might be somewhat foreboding to customers.  A computer sensor should be able to catch and analyse images of the bees mouths and tongue.  Does one actually have to walk through the swarm?

After doing repeated strip searches on women....
The might eventually determine that the bees also like to stick their tongues out for certain perfumes.
As well as honey sweetened coffee or tea.
 

Offline acecharly

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Re: Can bees sniff out explosives?
« Reply #5 on: 07/07/2012 18:59:32 »
i could see this being used in some kind of sting operation....
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Can bees sniff out explosives?
« Reply #6 on: 12/07/2012 11:16:58 »
i could see this being used in some kind of sting operation....

Somebody had to say it!
 

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Re: Can bees sniff out explosives?
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