28 November 2006

US Military Trains Bomb-Sniffing Bees

In the latest version of "drone"warfare, DOD scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory said in an online statement published Monday they had developed a method to harness the common honey bee's exceptional olfactory sense to sniff out explosives used in bombs or IEDS.

"The new techniques could become a leading tool in the fight against the use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which present a critical vulnerability for American military troops abroad and is an emerging danger for civilians worldwide," the research laboratory said.

The scientists used Pavlovian techniques on the bees' natural response to nectar, a sticking out of their tongue, or proboscis extension reflex.

By rewarding them with sugar water, the scientists taught bees to give the same reflex action when they were exposed to vapors from explosives such as dynamite, C4 plastic and TATP (triacetone triperoxide), often used by suicide bombers.

"Scientists have long marveled at the honey bee's phenomenal sense of smell, which rivals that of dogs," said Tim Haarmann, principal investigator for the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project. "But previous attempts to harness and understand this ability were scientifically unproven. With more knowledge, our team thought we could make use of this ability."

The rest of the story can be found here.

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