We already have a lot of reasons why we should thank to bees, but this one is maybe the biggest! (1)
Honey bees has a superior sense of smell, even more sensitive than that of a dog. With this strong sense they are able to detect specific chemical odors. (2)
It was shown that honey bees have potential to detect an early stage of cancer and other serious diseases.
Susana Soares has made a device that can utilize trained bees to detect lung, skin, and pancreatic cancer, as well as tuberculosis.
First, she trained the bees by using Pavolv’s reflex to associate a specific chemical odor with a food reward. Then the bees are released into the diagnostic device through an opening. Patients simply exhales into it and wait to see if a swarm gathers toward something alarming in the person’s breath.
“Trained bees only rush into the smaller chamber if they can detect the odour on the patient’s breath that they have been trained to target,” explained Soares, who presented her Bee’s project at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. (3)
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.
“There’s plenty of interest in the project especially from charities and further applications as a cost effective early detection of illness, specifically in developing countries,” Soares said.