Drug “Sniffing” Bees Could Make Airport Security Dogs Obsolete

Trained honeybees may become the new face of law enforcement, as drug policy evolves beyond what canines can handle.

image via (cc) flickr user dni777

Scientists are abuzz with excitement after new research suggests dogs may not necessarily be the most effective animal drug detectors when it comes to sniffing out illicit hidden contraband. Dogs, it turns out, have a hard time adjusting to the shifting sands of drug legislation, in which things things like marijuana can suddenly become legal some places, while remaining illegal in others. The training involved in creating an effective drug-sniffing dog is time-intensive, expensive, and hard to un-learn, should the pooch need to pivot in response to evolving drug legislation. What’s more, as drug dogs operate in an inherently binary system with their human partners, there’s a risk for false-positive detection as the dog could be more influenced by its handler’s expectations than olfactory input.

With that in mind, surely there’s a more effective, less expensive way to sniff out drugs, while remaining flexible to the legislative machinations that define which drugs are, and aren’t, okay to search for at any given time. And, in fact, science may well have found a new super-sniffer that meets those criteria: The honeybee.

In a study published this week entitled “Detection of Illicit Drugs by Trained Honeybees,” researchers Matthias Schott and Andreas Vilcinskas of Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen, Germany, and Birgit Klein, from the German State Office of Criminal Investigation, describe how the humble honeybee could someday become a viable companion to—if not an outright improvement on—current drug sniffing canines. They write:

Here we describe an insect screening procedure showing that the western honeybee (Apis mellifera) can sense volatiles associated with pure samples of heroin and cocaine. We developed a portable electroantennographic device for the on-site measurement of volatile perception by these insects, and found a positive correlation between honeybee antennal responses and the concentration of specific drugs in test samples. Furthermore, we tested the ability of honeybees to learn the scent of heroin and trained them to show a reliable behavioral response in the presence of a highly-diluted scent of pure heroin. Trained honeybees could therefore be used to complement or replace the role of sniffer dogs as part of an automated drug detection system.

The paper goes on to claim that, when it comes to responding to different narcotics, the bees can be trained—and, perhaps more importantly, re-trained—relatively quickly. What’s more, they aren’t susceptible to any handler-influenced biases, as drug dogs might be.

Researchers also tested two other types of insects—the grapevine moth and the hissing cockroach—before ultimately settling on the honeybee, with their hyper-sensitive antennae, as the most effective drug detectors of the bunch. Still, they propose that:

...the power of an insect-based drug detector platform could be increased by using several different species with diverse response profiles. For example, a multi-chamber device containing honeybees and cockroaches could be used in airports to screen luggage for heroin, cocaine and amphetamines, with air from the luggage drawn over the insects and “alarm” signals used to select luggage for more detailed investigation

The study concludes with a call for further bug-drug research, so it’ll likely be some time—if ever—before we see TSA agents waving around boxes full of insects. Still, for anyone tempted to smuggle contraband onto an airplane, just imagine an agitated swarm of coke-sniffing bees coming anywhere near your suitcase. That’s probably more than enough to scare anyone into thinking twice.

[via gizmodo]

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.


Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less