WASHINGTON — In land-mine ridden former Yugoslavia, scientists are testing whether honeybees can be used to find land-mines left over from the divisive and violent 1990s era. In countries like Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, this could spare residents from the horrible effects of landmines and could be used around the world.
The Associated Press reports that Nikola Kezic, an expert on honeybee behavior, is testing whether “sugar-craving honeybees” can be used to detect land mines. He and a group of researchers are training honeybees to associate their food with the scent of explosives, a rather bold experiment.
The European Union-sponsored project, called “Tiramisu”, could be revolutionary if it succeeds as Kezic and others hope. Kezic has found that “bees can clearly detect this target”, but it remains to be seen if it can be a consistent result.
The real problem, says Kezic, is training an entire colony of thousands of bees to act as land mine detectors.
The Associated Press reports that Croatian officials estimate that about 2,500 people died from land mine explosions and that over 90,000 land mines were placed in the Balkan areas during the 1991 start of the Balkan wars. Most of them were not mapped out or planned. In the past 2o years since the end of the wars, 316 people have died and include 66 de-miners.
Bees have potential because they are super sensitive to scent, and do not have the drawback of weight, which rats and dogs have in sniffing out land mines.