Society’s been stung by COVID-19, but science is looking to tell the bug to buzz off.
In the Netherlands, they’ve figured out an unusual way to detect the virus.
As indicated by a press release from Lelystad’s Wageningen University, researchers have taught bees to identify the coronavirus.
When the winged wonders smell it, thanks to their training — wait for it — they extend their tongues.
It’s an impressive feat; I was never able to even train my dog to sit.
The scientists dropped some science in the study’s press release, according to The Daily Wire:
“Each time the bees were exposed to the scent from an infected sample, they received a sugar water solution reward. The bees extended their tongues to collect the sugar water solution. By repeating this action several times, the bees associated the sugar reward with the scent as the stimulus.”
According to the document, eventually, the critters began sticking out their tongues whether or not any sugar followed.
The test was conducted with more than 150 bees and two groups of samples from minks — one infected, the other not.
Per the paper, “several bees indicated very good results and were able to distinguish the infected samples and those from healthy animals with very low numbers of false positives and false negatives.”
Experiments with human samples turned up similarly satisfactory results.
The pandemic’s been an interesting backdrop for insect and animal anomalies.
In May 2020, I covered the rise of the cannibal rat:
You may not have thought of it, but rats are your pets — you house and feed them.
They depend on you and me and the rest to keep doing what we’re doing so they can stay the course, too.
One man’s garbage is some rats’ horn of plenty. And ever since COVID-19 blew a clunker of a note into the once-beautiful symphony of American machination, those now-roving rodents have been havin’ a hard time of it.
In fact, the CDC’s had to put out the 411: Don’t get too close to our long-tailed friends — they’re hangry something fierce.
Per the Centers for Disease Control, all the closed restaurants had a ratty result:
Rodents rely on the food and waste generated by these establishments. Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas. Some jurisdictions have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food.
And from The New York Times:
[Rats are] simply turning on each other. They are going to war with each other, eating each other’s young in some populations and battling each other for the food they can find.
There was also the case of the Big Apple’s tyrannical squirrels last year…
WE'RE UNDER ATTACK!!!!
— Alex Parker (@alexparker1984) December 31, 2020
And who can forget murder hornets?
Perhaps through benefit of training, the COVID bees can take ’em on.
As for sniffing out the virus, the pollinators were a natural choice.
Courtesy of Wageningen:
Bees, like dogs, can learn to detect volatiles and odors, but with just a few minutes of training.
As for practical use of the “BeeSense” technology, the next step is scalability.
Fortunately, the insects can be found all over the world.
And InsectSense — the start-up teaming with Wageningen Bioveterinary Research — has developed prototypes of a machine that can train bees and deploy them for diagnosis.
Such a system would reportedly be of special benefit in low-income countries with a lack of technology and infrastructure.
It’s a big time for bugs.
Speaking of, as if the insanity of the last year hasn’t been enough, this month brings a special treat:
Their Name is 'Brood': America Prepares for a Plague of 'Trillions' of Locusts https://t.co/vgqV9vjmLB
— RedState (@RedState) January 22, 2021
Bee on the lookout.
And let’s hope those bees spawn friendlier COVID-testing methods:
— Alex Parker (@alexparker1984) March 5, 2021
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