Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Coming soon: bomb-sniffing bees

Izzy Bee applauds innovative ways to protect civilians from the risks of conflict, particularly from hidden explosives. Surely Israel can adapt these cutting edge techniques from Croatian professors who are training ordinary honey bees to sniff out landmines.
Scientists in the US and UK are also abuzz about the possibilities
of bee bomb-detectors that are cheap and quick to train. How sweet it could be for security agents surveying dodgy frontiers.

At this rate, sniffer bees could soon be a reality at Israeli checkpoints, and using insects might be less offensive to Muslims than inspection by dogs or pimply teenage soldiers in low-slung pants. According to British press reports, these specially trained bees are adept at finding more than, say, a stinger missile. They can be sensitized to gunpowder, semtex, plastic explosive, TNT, you name it. And once trained, it just takes a few bees inside a scanning box to process abig crows. It's efficient, however offbeat.
Bees could be trained to detect illicit drugs, too, using the same sort of "buzz box" scanner trademarked by Inscentinel researchers (at right).
The downside is that a mysterious insect AIDS has depleted domesticated honey bee hives in Europe and North America, so fewer bee recruits are available. (Some reports suggested that radio and mobile phone signals interfere with bee navigation, so many went astray.) What's more, bees are apt to go berserk if they encounter large amounts of honey, no matter how well-trained they might be. This would be especially stressful for, say, Palestinian honey traders or bakers at a border. So flying squads of sniffer bees, already dubbed "insect scentinels" by the punning marketers in Britain, might get overy enthusiastic, send off the wrong signals and implicate an innocent bypasser. "Oops. Honey, I shot that granny with baklava." Until this glitch is worked out, it's doubtful that Israeli security firms will be making a beeline to use this experimental method.


red hornet said...

cannot imagine the sting operations this new technique will allow

Anonymous said...

Bee serious! Is Izzy the Queen Bee offering up her kin to Halliburton and Blackwater and the IDF?
--Red Bull