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Scientists at America's leading nuclear weapons laboratory are training honey bees to sniff out bomb-making explosives in a project they claim could have dramatic implications for public security and the safety of troops in war zones.
Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have trained the common honey bee to stick out its proboscis, or tongue, when it smells explosives.
The aim is to place the bees in hand-held detectors the size of a shoe box, monitor their responses and use them in areas such as airports and roadside security checkpoints.
The "air force of bomb-sniffing bees" could even be placed in robot bomb disposal equipment and used to detect threats such as the improvised explosive devices confronted by troops in Iraq, scientists say.
Dubbed the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project, the research involved "training" the bees using Pavlovian techniques. The insects were rewarded with sugar water when they responded to the smell.