New breed of 'sniffer' bees locate landmines
Biologists in France and Croatia have reared sniffer bees which they claim could find explosives that are hidden underground in the Balkans.
The insects are said to have an olfactory sense as strong as sniffer dogs.
Researchers hope they will speed up the urgent task of clearing thousands of landmines that have been disturbed in the worst flooding on record.
Around one million landmines were planted during the war in Bosnia in 1992-95. Nearly 120,000 of the unexploded devices remain in more than 9,400 minefields. The bad weather has dislodged many mines.
"We knew that bees were sensitive to certain smells, like geraniums or nerol. The challenge was to get them to learn to spot TNT," said Yves Le Conte, director of the bee and environment unit at INRA, in Avignon, southern France.
In experiments, Mr Le Conte hid TNT under sand covered with sugar syrup and this encouraged the insects to prefer pots with TNT in them.
The bees soon lose interest when they realise there is no sugar, so have to be "re-educated" with sugar-coated TNT every half an hour, Mr Le Conte said. (©Daily Telegraph, London)