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Bees The Buzz In Landmine Detection

RICHLAND, Wash. - Forget James Bond and his souped-up BMW. The newest high-tech agent in the world of international security could be a honeybee.

    Its mission? To detect landmines.
    Its modus operandi? Tiny radio frequency tags.
Technology developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is helping to determine if bees pass muster as secret agents in the mission to find millions of landmines scattered worldwide.

Pacific Northwest engineers have modified commercially available radio-frequency tags, which store information and can be used to track items such as clothing, to serve as high-tech "backpacks" for bees. Pacific Northwest engineers also have designed special electronics and software for radio-frequency devices that "read" information on the tags. These devices will be mounted to manmade beehives.

Used together, these technologies will track the movement of bees and test their ability to detect minute amounts of explosives. If bees can be trained, they will be a means for locating landmines or unexploded ammunition on firing ranges or old battlefields.

The University of Montana in Missoula is coordinating this project, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense. Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, an entomologist at the university, pooled resources from three federal agencies and three national laboratories to conduct this research.

In a field test this spring, Pacific Northwest engineers and Bromenshenk's research team will tag 50 bees in a controlled experiment. Each tag will store information used to identify a bee and will weigh less than a grain of rice.

The RF tags and readers will allow researchers to track the movements of individual bees. For example, as a bee leaves for a day of pollen hunting, it will fly out
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Contact: Staci West
staci.west@pnl.gov
509-372-6313
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
28-Apr-1999


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