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“Bee”coming the next humanitarians

Bees are little honey-makers, pollinators and picnic-pests. But, we found out this week that the insects can also be humanitarians.

What’s all this buzz about? Well, like dogs, bees rely heavily on scent for day-to-day activities. A worker bee’s two antennae have 3,000 sensory organs, and can distinguish more than 170 odours. In just a couple of days, they can be trained to seek out and hover over a scent.

This talent for smell could end up saving lives in conflict zones. Scientists at the University of Montana created a system to use bees to detect landmines. Bees are like dust mops, and when they fly around they can collect dust particles, including TNT residue found in landmines. By fitting the bees with a small microchip, the location of the landmine can be determined.

In Canada, the Red Cross helps to educate others about the dangers of landmines on civilian populations. Landmines affect approximately 80 countries, and 75 per cent of mine victims are civilians. They hinder a country’s development and cause a variety of medical, social and economic issues.

Research has shown that conditioned bees have 97 per cent accuracy in finding landmines. There are also other benefits to using bees as landmine detectors: lower costs, no chance of detonation, and they can pollinate and help replenish agricultural systems of war-torn regions.

So, the next time a bee is buzzing around and driving you crazy, keep in mind that they could save a life. “Bee”nice.

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