Honey Bees to Replace Sniffer Dogs?

Strange but true, because researchers from a German police laboratory are now turning to honey bees to help them sniff for drugs.


According to them, recreational cannabis use was recently legalized in two US states and is decriminalized in many others. Therefore, a sniffer dog “alert” is no longer sufficient evidence to allow police searches without permission, a warrant, or additional probable cause. The retraining of sniffer dogs to ignore cannabis is difficult and time consuming. Trained insects have been proposed as alternative biosensors for illegal drugs because their antennae are the most sensitive natural organs discovered thus far for the detection of volatiles. Insects can be produced and reared inexpensively, and they can be conditioned rapidly to react to specific volatiles. The ability of insects to sense and learn odors varies from species to species. Therefore, protocols must be developed to screen different species for their suitability in drug-detection applications.


Are honey bees going to replace drug-sniffing dogs eventually? Possibly. Given the extra amount of effort required to retrain dogs and most importantly the high probability of dogs biasing their findings due to the bonding they have with their police partners, it is likely that for cost-cutting and statistical reasons dogs may have to hand the baton over to the more efficient and effective honey bees. Now, there's one more reason why honey bees deserve to be saved and protected as far as possible.

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