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Sniffer Bees
October 14, 2009 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Inscentinel uses trained bees to sniff out drugs, explosives, and spoiled food.
posted by contraption (38 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
This ought to put an end to "Can I Eat This?" AskMes for good.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:03 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bees are gently restrained in bee holders and loaded into six cassettes.

The FAQ is priceless. But I question the practicality of the bee-cassettes (I mean you have to feed them right?)
posted by selenized at 3:05 PM on October 14, 2009


NOT THE BEES!
posted by Joe Beese at 3:08 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


via William Gibson, whose Twitter stream often contains such gems
posted by contraption at 3:09 PM on October 14, 2009


BEADS!?
posted by Widepath at 3:11 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pretty nifty. Fascinating post.
Our "sniffer bees" are honeybees trained to recognise a specific odour. They are trained using a well known Classical Pavlovian conditioning protocol - a simple association of a smell with a food reward. The insect is exposed to the odour in controlled pulses and simultaneously rewarded with sugar syrup. After three to five presentations and rewards the bee is trained. When the bee detects the odour it expects a food reward and extends its tongue (proboscis). This response is a reflex action (Proboscis extension Reflex, PER) and is not consciously controlled by the bee. A "panel" of bees can be trained in as little as a few hours to remember a particular odour for several days.
Please make sure no klutzy TSA screeners drop the unit, too.

Worker bees are all non-reproducing females, and it's been known for at least 2 decades that the olfactory chemoreceptors on their antennae give them an extremely perceptive sense of smell. When I first read about that a number of years ago, there was speculation that worker bees could be trained to assist in pollination of specific crops. At the time, I'm pretty sure that no one had come up with a delivery system. Nice to see someone took that discovery and dreamed up a practical application.
After their working shift the bees are returned to their hive where they happily live out the rest of their lives and are integrated back into the hive.

If the bee training only lasts for days, the bees will need to be replenished, yes? Plus, I have to assume the cartridges supply royal jelly or something so the bees don't go legs up.

This company is going to make a ton of money on expendable insects.
posted by zarq at 3:12 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


No false positives? The bees don't just lick their lips every so often? And four sessions seems... fast. Of course, there's not a lot of neurons to train, so maybe that's reasonable.
posted by GuyZero at 3:17 PM on October 14, 2009


Damn. didn't anyone see The Swarm? When will we ever learn.
posted by mylaudanumhabit at 3:23 PM on October 14, 2009


Another reason to hate bees.
posted by Maias at 3:25 PM on October 14, 2009


"And in other news, a suspect was arrested during a police sting operation"
posted by qvantamon at 3:30 PM on October 14, 2009 [11 favorites]


The best part will be when they get their lobbyists to have labor legislation passed to make colony collapse disorder an illegal form of work stoppage. Two problems solved!
posted by srboisvert at 3:30 PM on October 14, 2009


See also Susana Soares, a designer who explores how bees might be trained to detect not only bombs and landmines, but human pregnancy.
posted by oulipian at 3:34 PM on October 14, 2009


GuyZero: "No false positives?"

I imagine they are testing the response of a simultaneous array of bees. One or two false positive bees are to be expected at any given time maybe, but all the bees saying "gimme sugar" at once is a stronger indicator.
posted by idiopath at 3:36 PM on October 14, 2009


Okay. I'm a little drunk on antihistamines right now, but this is fake. Right . . . er. . . right in a Bonsai Kitten sort of way?

Maybe I should just go to bed and contemplate the worthlessness of my liberal arts degrees viz. the wonders of biotech. I mean who cares if you can delineate the finer arguments of Immanuel Kant when you can train motherfuckin' bees!
posted by MasonDixon at 3:46 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


This seems like the beginning of a bad 1960's monster movie. Doubtless they'll start breeding the bees to be bigger and smarter so that they're more useful for the tasks at hand. That continues ad infinitum until we have 50 foot tall hyperintelligent bees who can smell their enemies from afar and (just for good measure) fire neutron lasers from their stingers.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:50 PM on October 14, 2009


"And in other news, a suspect was arrested during a police sting operation"

Yeah, poor guy was just trying to catch a buzz.
posted by 7segment at 3:56 PM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pot-sniffing bees -- what a buzz-kill!
posted by jamstigator at 3:57 PM on October 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


this use has been going on for some time now. The military and law officals have been interested in it since bees are cheaper than dogs and train faster.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061128140820.htm
posted by Postroad at 3:59 PM on October 14, 2009


I love the fact that, in any discussion about bees, somebody will quote G.O.B. and somebody will link to the Wicker Man clip. I genuinely find both hilarious, and don't expect it will ever not crack me up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:09 PM on October 14, 2009


jamstigator, quit ap-ing my puns!
posted by 7segment at 4:11 PM on October 14, 2009


This might finally turn around the growing bee unemployment rates.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:14 PM on October 14, 2009


I'm pretty sure that this hybrid of the old and new technologies is surely the way to go.
posted by nowonmai at 4:20 PM on October 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


Human Ambassador: FUCK YEAH HUMANS! ALL UP IN HERE!

Plutonian Ambassador: You are an interesting species to be certain.

Human Ambassador: WOO! WOO! I'M IN YOUR FACE!

Plutonian Ambassador: I notice from your records that over the course of your development you have invented many remarkable things, such as wondrous chemicals that can completely destabilize the human cognizance centre...

Human Ambassador: FUCK YEAH DRUGS! COKE! COKEY-COLA! COLUMBIAN MARCHING POWDER! THE SNOW! SNOW! INFORMER, YOU NO SAY muh muh muh muh muh, A LICKY BOOM BOOM DOWN!

Plutonian Ambassador: ...and devices that can destroy entire buildings in a matter of seconds.

Human Ambassador: FUCK YEAH EXPLOSIVES! HURRRRRRR! GET TO THE CHOPPAH!

Plutonian Ambassador: But say one of these devices somehow wound up in the wrong hands - how would this criminal then hide the device, perhaps before boarding a transcontinental flight aboard one of your quaint "air planes"?

Human Ambassador: UNDER THEIR SHIRTS! SURROUNDED BY SHOES! FFFFFFFF-

Plutonian Ambassador: And what would your police forces do to ensure that it was recovered before it was used for ill?

Human Ambassador: Bees.

Plutonian Ambassador: I'm sorry?

Human Ambassador: Bees. We use bees. And dogs. Bees and dogs.

Plutonian Ambassador: I see. So you can invent farming, architecture, art, fusion, space flight, and mind-altering chemicals, but you can't find things?

Human Ambassador: That's about the extent of it.

Plutonian Ambassador: Very well. Now, back to this so-called "Western Canon"...

Human Ambassador: FUCK YEAH LEARNINGS! DON QUICKS-OAT! WHY HELLO CLARICE!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:35 PM on October 14, 2009 [18 favorites]


These people have created things that were never meant to be! Drug-sniffing bees! A three-way pun!
posted by moss at 4:58 PM on October 14, 2009


come on guys...

it's VAPORWARE

boom-chish!

think OUTSIDE TH BOX!

pa-rum-pum...

and one more thing... BBBBBBBEEEEEEEES!!11!
posted by Hammond Rye at 4:59 PM on October 14, 2009


Who put the bees out? Buzz! Buzz!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:26 PM on October 14, 2009


Did anyone else think of the 1950's style giant bug movie potential?

First Scientist:"Gee these bees are great at detecting things."
Second Scientist:"You're not kidding. Hey, I wonder if we can get them to detect radioactivity?"
First Scientist:"Great idea. What can go wrong?"

Two days later...

First Scientist: "I wonder where this huge puddle of honey came from?"
posted by digsrus at 5:39 PM on October 14, 2009


I'm rooting for Colony Collapse Disorder. I mean this is just what pot growers need, not only will the stupid bees find the pot, but they will pollinate it too. Fucking seeds.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:25 PM on October 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


This response is a reflex action (Proboscis extension Reflex, PER) and is not consciously controlled by the bee.

I'm wondering what a consciously controlled action by a be would mean

No false positives? The bees don't just lick their lips every so often? And four sessions seems... fast. Of course, there's not a lot of neurons to train, so maybe that's reasonable.

Well, that's why there's six of them. It's pretty unlikely they would 'lick their lips' all at the same time. It's possible, but the only problem would be a search at the airport or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 7:40 PM on October 14, 2009


Metafilter: testing the response of a simultaneous array of bees.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:54 PM on October 14, 2009


If nothing else, it's more exercise for the people, who have to actually climb around on stuff and get the bees in the neighborhood of what they're sniffing.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:20 PM on October 14, 2009


The military uses these? Oh yeah, I remember the commercials now: bee all you can bee.
posted by jamstigator at 10:05 PM on October 14, 2009


Drug-sniffing dogs AND drug-sniffing bees? Come on guys, we all know this program was created just so some officer could release the dogs, or the bees, or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you. And then both find your drugs.
posted by ilana at 10:16 PM on October 14, 2009


I just happy to be in a world where the phrase "Simultaneous Bee Array" is no longer reserved for prog rock bands.
posted by Jilder at 11:59 PM on October 14, 2009


sorry i can't come with you too many bees
posted by kaspen at 12:08 AM on October 15, 2009


Bees are gently restrained in bee holders and loaded into six cassettes.

Of which we can say that both sides are bee sides.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:30 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]



Did anyone else think of the 1950's style giant bug movie potential?

I want to make this movie.
posted by The Whelk at 12:41 PM on October 15, 2009


It should involve a genetic sniffer bee/sniffer dog hybridization project gone awry, and should feature menacing German Shepherds in bee costumes.
posted by contraption at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2009


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