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MINE-HUNTING HONEYBEES

honey-beeCroatian researchers are training honeybees to locate the 750 landmines along the country’s borders left over from the Balkan Wars. Professor Nikola Kezic of Zagreb University has discovered a way to utilize the honeybee’s powerful sense of smell in order to hone in on mines buried in the ground. By placing a mixture of sugar and TNT near various feeding points, the bees learn to associate food with the scent of explosives. Nearly 466 square miles are thought to still contain landmines—since 1991, over 2,500 people have been killed by landmines in Croatia.

“Our basic conclusion is that the bees can clearly detect this target, and we are very satisfied,” said Kezic. The main issue in the training of honeybees resides in the mastery of the entire colony as opposed to just a few lone bees.

Kezic is also one of the leaders of a larger multimillion-euro program called “Tiramisu,” to detect land mines. Once the reliability of trained honeybees is confirmed, they will be utilized to uncover the mines otherwise missed by de-miners in an area. In the past, dogs and rats have been used. However, their bodyweight would often detonate the mines. Bees, on the other hand, are light enough to not disturb the explosives and their movements can be tracked with heat-seeking cameras.

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