Scientists Have Trained Wasps To Detect Bombs

Move over, bloodhounds, there’s a new odor detector in town. Researchers at the University of Georgia have built a device named the “Wasp Hound” to sniff out just about anything, including explosives, drugs, and even bedbugs. The Wasp Hound is a hand-held device containing 5 parasitic wasps that have been trained to detect over 60 different odors. These flying, stinger-less insects have outperformed dogs in tests that measure scent detection of cadavers. When wasps have been trained to associate a particular odor with a reward — a good, long drink of sugar water — they get excited when they smell it. A camera tracks the wasps’ movements and those images are fed into a software program that measures food-searching behavior that’s referred to as “swarming.” That tells scientists in as little as 20 seconds if the wasps have detected the odor. There’s only one drawback to the Wasp Hound — wasps only live an average of 3 days. The good news is that the insects can be produced in large numbers for pennies per thousand. In other words, dogs may be man’s best friend, but wasps are cheaper.