We know that without bumblebees fruit will not grow on the vine, corn will not grow on the cob, alfalfa won’t feed farm animals, and cotton will not grow into underpants fabric for clothing, right?
The flight of the bumble bee
Even though bumble bees can sting us, they’re necessary, like it’s necessary to eat cabbage when we would rather have…a fruit roll-up.
“Bees are like flying dust mops,” says Jerry Bromenshenk (University of Montana, Missoula).
“Wherever they go, they pick up dust, airborne chemicals, and other samples. If it’s out there, they’ll find it and bring it back.”
Researchers from the University of Montana and Sandia Labs are training bumble bees to sniff out land mines, or explosives such as TNT, that are found in land mines.
They train the bees to think of candy bars something sweet like honey while smelling explosives so that when they fly into a field that has landmines, they will want to spend more time in the area, picking up lots of the affected pollen and particles as they go.
When the bees return to the hives built by Sandia Labs, researchers can detect whether or not there’s TNT in the hives with hand-held radar equipment that they can’t detect out in a random field.
This is very important, because if people can find the landmines they can disable them, and get them safely out of the soil. Poor farmers, and their children, will be able to use the land, not ruined by the poisons that explosives put in the soil, to grow food without blowing themselves up. It’s estimated that more than 10,000 kids die in fields that have landmines every year.
What’s also exciting is how inexpensive this solution is because “…there are beekeepers everywhere…and you wouldn’t need a million-dollar piece of equipment and extensive training to use it.”
Read the full story at the Sandia website. Or even better: become an official bumblebee observer for scientists!