VEGA News Item

More Jobs for Bees and Wasps - 28/06/2010

We Already Prize these Insects as Pollinators

1.  The glibness of these observations begs a lot of questions to which animal welfarists and environmentalists must pay constant attention when we appraise the harm we do as a species in establishing our own estate and dominance. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 was an attempt at bringing some scientific consistency in our respect and relationship to all animals, including our own species, great and small, and sensations of pain, frustration, and shame and sorrow. Comparison with our own experiences in the womb and early development, eg of sentience come into it. The mother experiences and remembers the stresses of delivering the human baby, who remembers nothing of his or her tribulations for the first few years of life “outside,” but still learning, if only from gestures and restraints (and clouts).

2.  In the USA dogs are being increasingly used in the detection of bed bugs in efforts at eliminating potential allergens in the built environment. However, Braconid wasps are more sensitive than dogs to odors, so these insects are being investigated for the advantages they can offer, eg in locating buried corpses. A claim is being made that use of these insects offers some distinct advantages: “they can be trained in a couple of hours, they are cheap and easy to maintain plus there are no animal welfare issues surrounding their use.”

3.  Once trained, the bees are deployed using a handheld portable Vasor device. This contains 36 bees “gently” restrained in bee holders and loaded into 6 cassettes. Once exposed to the air in a test on a sample to detect a specified substance the odor evokes a Proboscis Extension Reflex response (PER): the bees stick their tongues out in the expectation of food. (The bees are trained by classical pavlovian conditioning). Individual responses of all 36 bees are recorded and translated into a simple result and shown on the PDA screen display.

4.  In the UK researchers at Rothamsted Research Institute honey bees (Apis mellifera) are exploiting capabilities of the insects for the purposes of detection, in which their excellence in tracing vapors are harnessed for human advantage. A system, being developed by Inscentinel, offers a large range of possible applications, for example, in detection of explosives and drugs, as well as in the diagnosis of TB, detection of food spoilage and the early stages of dry rot-or even of infestations with bed bugs.

5.  The sensitive olfactory abilities of dogs and pigs have been much exploited in searches for sources of food on the one hand and for contraband and illegal substances and pests on the other. Such animals excel over tests involving recourse to the technology and physics and chemistry because the animals are of convenient size and mobility and can be trained quickly; and their memories are good. The scope of the biological means of detection now extends, in research in the UK and USA to bees and wasps.


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