July 23 - Croatian scientists train colonies of mine clearing bees in an effort to speed up the removal of landmines left over from the 1991-95 war.
Clearing landmines is dangerous, painstaking work, and however good the technicians hunting them, some devices get left behind. Croatian scientists led by Professor Nikola Kezic think they may have the answer - colonies of bees. The insects are being trained to sniff out the deadly devices, by being fed sugar scented with the smell of TNT explosives. SOUNDBITE (Croatian) BEE EXPERT, NIKOLA KEZIC, SAYING: "Bees are suitable because they're stored in a beehive, in a single place, they're widely distributed and can be found in every country. The process of training bees to get used to a scent is very short." Trained in a matter of days, the bees are released into minefields, detecting TNT particles in the air before gathering directly above mines. Scientists then track the bees with a small airship, filming them with conventional and thermal vision cameras. Analysis of the film can pinpoint whether minefields cleared by conventional methods contain leftover explosive materials. SOUNDBITE (Croatian) BEE EXPERT, NIKOLA KEZIC, SAYING: "...This method is primarily meant to improve quality of an already cleared area, that is, we want to complement methods already used for mine clearing with bees, so that we can have one more method we could use to confirm that an area is indeed cleared, because it is paramount that nothing is left in a minefield after clearing." The method is still in the research and development stage. If successful it may be deployed in Croatia, where hundreds of kilometres of land remain uncleared after the 1991-95 war.