Back in 2006, Science Daily ran an article about two scientists who were using wasps to detect drugs, explosives, toxic chemicals, and other substances. Five years later in 2011, Dr. Joe Lewis, a retired research entomologist at the University of Georgia in Athens, and Dr. Glen Rains, a biological and agricultural engineer, were featured in a New York Times article about The Wasp Hound, a hand-held device they had developed that contained five wasps which could be used to detect scents.
More recently, Susana Soares, a designer from Portugal, presented a glass device consisting of separate chambers that hold bees, which can be trained to recognize scents in as little as ten minutes. The following video shows the glass device and how the concept could work:
The bees can detect extremely low levels of chemicals — as small as a few parts per trillion (PPT) — which is even better than dogs, and they may be able to detect cancer by “smelling” a patient’s breath.
“Trained bees only rush into the smaller chamber if they can detect the odor on the patient’s breath that they have been trained to target,” explained Soares. “Training simply consists of exposing the bees to a specific odor and then feeding them with a solution of water and sugar, therefore they associate that odor with a food reward.”
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