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German Police Consider Using Bees in Drug Detection

German Police Consider Using Bees in Drug Detection

Saturday, 31 August, 2019 - 06:00
An apiarist collects honey from a beehive in Madalpur village, Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma)

German Police are currently considering an unfamiliar proposal: the use of bees in drug detection, just like dogs. The idea has made headlines in the police magazine. Officer Sonja Kessler, 22, who keeps hives as a hobby, revealed her idea in her graduation project entitled "drug detection bees… a revolution in the police mission."


In her paper, Kessler said dogs deployed for drug detection work for a short term, focus on specific people, and require a time consuming and expensive training. So, why don't we use bees instead of dogs?


According to the German News Agency, the European Police Congress honored Kessler for her research this year.


Drug detection bees: unfamiliar research or crazy idea?


According to experts, bees have a great sense of smell and can be trained to recognize and report odors.


For this purpose, the little insects should be kept in a container, a tube for instance, according to Peter Rosenkranz, head of the Baden-Württemberg State Institute for Bee Science at the University of Hohenheim. During the training, the bees smell certain material, and at the same time, lick a sugar solution. By repeating the process several times, the bees master the targeted smell.


The moment those little insects sniff the smell, they point their stingers through which they absorb the nectar, because they expect a sweet treat.


Rosenkranz stresses that bees have an accurate smelling sense that can be as effective as dogs.


Rosenkranz said that during an educational course, he trained bees on recognizing different cigarettes brands.


"Only 20 bees can be used, and put in a briefcase-like container, to detect drugs in train stations or an airport checkpoint. The idea had been practically tested," he noted.


For her part, Kessler believes that a bee can do more than that.


"The reward approach can be used to build and rehabilitate full beehives," she said in the article published in the police magazine.


The "bee detectors" that fly freely can monitor wide spaces expanding over up to 50 km square. The little insects can also be covered with a fluorescent powder so they can be recognized by drones. Bees can be deployed to uncover drug farms and to detect explosives found in the world wars ammunition remnants.


Yet, the young bee lover admits that the bee's free movement depends on weather conditions and the right season. A legal frame that regulates the work of those trained bees is also needed to determine the legal consequence if a bee stings a suspect while sniffing him, for example, or whether it can be used as admissible evidence in court.


In spite of these limits, Kessler sees that bees can be an efficient assistant, and hopes police can benefit from these little insects in their work.


The German Police Syndicate didn't reject the idea.


"We shouldn't laugh about the proposal. We are actually considering it," said a police member who works as an editor in the police magazine and spokesperson to the syndicate.


The spokesperson said the syndicate received many positive responses about this idea, noting that bees can be deployed to serve the federal police, along with dogs trained on drug control.


Commenting on the police syndicate's statements, officials in the Federal Police said: "Generally, the federal police do not comment on the syndicate's statements, since the police are not directly related to such issues. But, officials are advised to consult customs to see if bees could be used to help check the contents of the bags."


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