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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.
......grab hold of a trained bee and pass TNT vapour across it, it sticks its tongue out.
i could see this being used in some kind of sting operation....