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US unleashes bomb-sniffing bees

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Scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have rather splendidly announced the immediate availability of the bomb-sniffing bee, Reuters reports.

The boffins declared they'd "trained honeybees to stick out their proboscis when they smell explosives in anything from cars and roadside bombs to belts similar to those used by suicide bombers". The terror-busting insects can "recognise substances ranging from dynamite and C-4 plastic explosives to the Howitzer propellant grains used in improvised explosive devices in Iraq", according to researchers.

Research scientist Tim Haarmann told Reuters: "When bees detect the presence of explosives, they simply stick their proboscis out. You don't have to be an expert in animal behaviour to understand it as there is no ambiguity."

Haarmann enthused: "We are very excited at the success of our research as it could have far-reaching implications for both defense and homeland security."

The plan is, as Haarman explained, to deploy the bees in "hand-held detectors the size of a shoe box", and train security operatives in their use. Whether detected suicide bombers would be attacked by swarms of SWAT Brazilian killer bees is not noted. ®

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