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Stealthy Insect Sensor Project unleashes bees to sniff out bombs

Darren Murph

While homemade nuke detectors patrolling our waterways seems sufficiently plausible, remote-controlled rats searching for explosives is certainly pushing the bounds of acceptability, but to expect a swarm of "highly trained" bees to sniff out destructive material (without getting medieval on somebody) sounds like an awful lot of buzz. Nevertheless, an 18-month research study -- dubbed the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project -- at the US Energy Department's Los Alamos facility has just concluded, and team members have announced resounding success in teaching your average bee to "stick their proboscis (that tube they use to feed on nectar) out in the presence of explosives." The DHS sees potential in using the little buggers to "find dynamite and C-4 plastic explosives" as well as relatively dodgy "Howitzer propellant grains." Scientists have used a reward system to train the animals, by offering up a "sugar treat" each time they correctly signify explosive material, and suggest that teams of detectors (read: incensed bees) could be carried about in "portable containers about the size of a shoebox." While theoretically, this plan may seem sound, what happens when our enemies start covering their tracks in nectar -- or worse, when the insects unleash a painful revolt against our own brethren?

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