Magazine article USA TODAY

Tracking Land Mines with Honeybees

Magazine article USA TODAY

Tracking Land Mines with Honeybees

Article excerpt

The latest in fashion for bees this summer--a high-tech tracking backpack--may help find millions of land mines scattered throughout the world. If honeybees can be trained to seek out the chemical components of explosives, the ability to track the insects and analyze their hives could help pinpoint land mines or unexploded ammunition on firing ranges or old battlefields.

Engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Wash., have modified commercially available radio-frequency tags for bees to "wear" so they can be identified. Special electronics and software designed by Pacific Northwest are mounted on man-made beehives to "read" the identification of each bee from the tiny tags.

Researchers hope that, while the bees are out foraging for pollen, they will pick up traces of the chemicals found in explosives that leak from land mines into soil and water. "Bees are like flying dust mops. Wherever they go, they pick up dust, airborne chemicals, and other samples," explains Jerry Bromenshenk, an entomologist at the University of Montana, Missoula, who is coordinating the project. He has pooled resources from three Federal agencies and three national laboratories to conduct the research, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense. …

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