After Cyborg Beetles We Now Have Sniffer Bees

14 Ott/09

Sniffers of the future [credit: lapstrake on flickr via CC, click for source]Next time you visit an airport, there’s a chance of you being sniffed by, not dogs, but bees. Yes, they are now down to training bees to sniff and apparently it is proving to be extremely successful.

While the cyborg beetles in my last post are still nowhere near practical implementation, these sniffer bees are already being used to detect suspect chemicals that are used in explosives. Thankfully, unlike their cyborg brethren, these insects are actually there to stop the violence before it happens by sniffing out bombs and explosives.

These bees are normal honeybees that have been trained to respond to certain chemicals. They are rewarded for responding correctly to the chemicals. This is the same training procedure that is used to train dogs and other animals to respond to certain stimulus, usually smell. Another procedure used to train animals is by inducing pain whenever they make a mistake. This is used to train them to avoid certain things or to take one specific path through a maze.

A company called Insentinel is behind training these bees by exposing them to tiny samples of chemicals. Bees are extremely sensitive when it comes to picking up traces in the air, so they make for perfect sniffers. It has already been shown that they can pick up the traces in concentrations to the tune of one in one million million. As the reporter puts it, that is like a grain of salt in a swimming pool.

The great sniffer [credit: automania on flickr via cc, click for source]

Sources are of the opinion that the system may be in place within a year from now. So the next time you are at the airport and hear a strange buzzing noise, you’ll know there’s no place to hide. [Telegraph]

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