Oh, honeybees! Forgive me for a moment while I extoll the virtues of the this humble insect. These hard-working ladies accomplish so much to contribute to human well-being. Aside from pollinating our crops and producing the miracle elixir that is honey, scientists have also found that bee venom can contribute to destroying HIV. Yes, that is correct, nanoparticles found in their naturally occurring compound can help to cure one of mankind’s most pressing medical catastrophes. So, in case it wasn’t enough to honor these brilliant bugs for their contributions to health, you may be surprised to learn how honeybees are working towards ensuring our collective safety.
Some very out-of-the-box scientists in Croatia are training honeybees to detect landmines. It may sound ridiculous at first, but upon further reflection, a tiny flying creature with a fantastic sense of smell might just be the perfect tool to identify the location of such destructive and sensitive weapons. Researchers from Zagreb University have developed a method of using a sugar solution laced with TNT to condition the bees to recognize the chemical signatures of the landmines. Nikola Kezic, the lead scientist of the project dubbed “Tiramisu” has high hopes for his hives. Weighing less than rats or dogs who have also been taught to search out the underground explosives. the bees have the potential to find the mines without setting them off.
During the Balkan wars, 750 square kilometers were laced with 90,000 ballistics without a set pattern or legend. Since the beginning of the conflicts in 1991, over 2,500 have perished from landmine explosions. For a country that is set to enter the EU this summer and one that hopes to maintain the safety of its population, any tool in its efforts to rid the country of the scourge of its turbulent past can be seen as nothing if not a step in the right direction. Croatia would like to become a tourist destination, and using the bees to make certain an area is safe for recreation could be an added reassurance. Now, if only we can return the favor to our winged warriors by reversing the colony collapse disorder brought about by climate change, pesticides, mites, and a host of other man made actions.