Bombing-savvy bees

Great Extraordinary idea to use bees to sniff out bombs, as in this BBC clip. The bees look to have been treated delicately – if they hadn’t, I guess their sense-making could go haywire and the device wouldn’t work. It seems could be an effective marriage between high technology and our ‘more-than-human’ friends (and probably no genetic engineering in sight). But I trust hope the bees are given good working conditions and payback, though; I’d be pretty expectant if I was strapped to a slab in a darkened chamber for a living! [Update: Chris’ comment in response to this post conveys particular concerns that, I think, are worth taking note of – what don’t we see in the BBC clip in terms of the treatment of the bees?]

2 Responses to “Bombing-savvy bees”

  1. Chris Says:

    hmmm…sounds a good idea but I didn’t actually see them untying and releasing any nor how these highly social insects would respond if they did. I’m wondering what proportion survive training. But perhaps I missed something. D’you think sticking their tongues out is only associated with feeding and not a comment on being constrained?

  2. drfrank Says:

    Chris – well, I guess there’s a noticeable difference between when they do and don’t stick their tongues out, and the regularity and reliability with which they do so in relation to the presence of food.

    Yes, training and isolating the bees from their social culture sounds like the behaviour of gang masters in relation to their slaves. And I think you’re right to question the effect it has on the bees. The effect this technology has on the psychology of their human masters might also be something to be concerned about; cf. link between violence between humans and violence towards animals.

    If bees are going to have to be stuck in this situation, I’d like to think they either weren’t conscious of what was going on, and even more that they had a sense of being in service to a higher purpose (saving lives)…

    Incidentally, have you heard about the new film, Bee Movie, about the bee that learns humans have been stealing honey for centuries?

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