The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Getting a buzz takes on new life

By Lindsey Bever/editor-in-chief

   Forget drug-sniffing dogs; it’s all about bees, giving new meaning to the term “police sting.”
   Yes, wasps could put man’s best friend out of work. Scientists have successfully trained a species of non-stinging wasps to sniff out drugs, bombs and even bodies in under five minutes.
   The “Wasp Hound” research is part of a government project to see if the insects can be recruited for defense work, according to the Associated Press.
   I welcome the idea of emerging science. While I’m certain the expenses involved in research and development of this new project is pricey, it could definitely pay off in the long haul seeing as the cost to train a dog is a massive $15,000 and six long months of training.
   The training process is relatively simple—lead starving wasps to target odor, feed subjects sugar water for 10 seconds, give subjects a one-minute timeout and repeat twice. After one session, the tiny insects are ready to be launched into the crime scene.
   Once the wasps have completed their training, they are placed in a 10-inch-long plastic cylinder made of PVC pipe. The pipe contains a small opening in one end and a fan in the other. When the insects smell the target odor, a Web cam inside the pipe picks up an image of the five wasps as they assemble around the vent. Thus, their job is done.
   Initially, I thought the idea of a bomb-sniffing bee sounded preposterous. However, AP reports the Pentagon even considered outfitting these wasps with mini-transmitters to locate explosives in 2002, which left me with only one question: where can I get some?
   It’s nice to know if I want to own a few spy wasps, I can start a collection. Inscentinel Ltd., a British firm, sells trained bees complete with hives. Inscentinel Ltd. claims the wasps are useful in screening explosives, drugs, chemical weapons, land mines and food quality control; what a well-rounded insect.
   Although it may sound like a miserable existence for an insect, researchers work the wasps for only 48 hours, after which they are set free to live to the ripe-old age of three weeks.
Don’t assume wasps are the only intelligent insects. Joe Lewis, U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist, believes bees, other parasitic insects and even water bugs have potential in the field. I never would have thought insects would take government jobs.

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