Portuguese designer Susana Soares has developed a device for detecting cancer and other serious diseases using trained bees. The bees are placed in a glass chamber into which the patient exhales; the bees fly into a smaller secondary chamber if they detect cancer.
Scientists have found that honey bees - Apis mellifera - have an extraordinary sense of smell that is more acute than that of a sniffer dog and can detect airborne molecules in the parts-per-trillion range.
Bees can be trained to detect specific chemical odours, including the biomarkers associated with diseases such as tuberculosis, lung, skin and pancreatic cancer.
how does one train a bee
"The bees can be trained within 10 minutes," explains Soares. "Training simply consists of exposing the bees to a specific odour and then feeding them with a solution of water and sugar, therefore they associate that odour with a food reward."
Once trained, the bees will remember the odour for their entire lives, provided they are always rewarded with sugar. Bees live for six weeks on average.