Bomb-Sniffing Bees

Honeybees are helping to uncover some of the 250,000 mines still buried across the former Yugoslavia:

Tracking down the mines can be extremely costly and dangerous. However, by training bees — which are able to detect odours from 4.5 kilometres away — to associate the smell of TNT with sugar can create an affective way of identifying the locations of mines.

[Professor Nikola] Kezic leads a multimillion-pound programme sponsored by the EU, called Tiramisu, to detect landmines across the continent. His team has been working in a net tent filled with the insects and several feeding posts containing a sugar solution — some of which contain traces of TNT. The bees — which have already been trained to associate food with the smell of TNT — gather mainly at those feeding posts containing TNT. The movements of the bees are tracked from afar using thermal cameras. Bees have the advantage of being extremely small and so don’t run the risk of setting off the explosives in the same way that trained mammals such as dogs or rats do.

Recent Dish on the decline of honeybees in the US here.