Bomb-Sniffing Bees Used in Taking Out Landmines

Landmines are an indiscriminate weapon. They can destroy a tank, a squad of soldiers or a civilian man, women or child. Often they are causing death or a severe injury. No one can forget the pictures of Princess Diana with an African child suffering from landmine injuries. Despite the Mine Ban Treaty, signed by 150 nations in 1999, the use of landmines continues. Some mines are designed not to cause death, but horrific injuries, causing soldiers to remove the wounded from the field. The army calls this ‘force multiplication’, when manpower is reduced by the action required to save a team member’s life.

shutterstock_353210039Sapper bees are the solution to defusing landmines

Landmines are by their very nature difficult to detect and given that, remnants of previous wars are still being discovered. Alongside their use in current unrest, it is imperative a way to be found, to better identify them. A solution has been determined by using bees. Learn more about bees online, as to how incredible these insects are. Did you know they have a better sense of smell than sniffer dogs? Using a Pavlovian technique, scientists have trained bees to identify the position of landmines. Through the explosive ingredients, the bees associate the smell of vaporised explosive material with sugar water.

Tech and Nature – a powerful force

Research continues on the use of bees both in the field and in areas like airports and at checkpoints. An uncontained swarm, using tiny radio transmitters, could be safely used in a war zone, but in an enclosed space it won’t be as useful. Scientists are exploring ways to contain them and are using digital cameras to identify when their proboscises extend, a response to scenting the explosives. Combining this information with pattern identifying software, will give an indication of where explosives or landmines can be found. The innovations in using bees continue to be explored, possible use as drug detectors is also being considered.