Trained honeybees have shown a remarkable ability to sniff out land mines, suggesting a possible new way to find the estimated 110 million unexploded land mines around the world, according to researchers at the University of Montana.
Jerry Bromenshenk, who has studied bees as pollution sensors and environmental sensors for 30 years, said honeybees have proven themselves to be easier to train, harder working and more accurate than bomb-sniffing dogs.
Honeybees have a very refined sense of smell, live in packs of thousands, cover ground more quickly than dogs, and learn a new task in a matter of days, he said.
“We know bees can sense vapours at levels dogs can’t get to,” Bromenshenk said. “If they can smell it, they will be as good or better than dogs at finding it.”
For two years the bees have been finding simulated land mines that smell like the real thing. So far the bees have a near-perfect track record, said researcher Colin Henderson.
The United Nations estimates about 110 million unexploded land mines lurk around the world, and each year some 26,000 people are killed or maimed by the hidden bombs.