Guest Author - Sharon Schmidt
I came across an interesting story while researching on the internet. Scientists from the University of Georgia and the USDA Agricultural Research Service are training wasps to detect odors like concealed explosives, drugs, and human remains. They claim if given sugary water, wasps can be trained in minutes to follow any smell. Scientists claim wasps can be trained to detect odors from drugs to human remains to fungi on crops. The hope is that one day they can be trained to detect deadly diseases like cancer.
Scientists from the University of Georgia created a device they call the Wasp Hound. It is made of a small tube that contains five wasps that can be trained to detect any odor within minutes. Scientists are now investigating whether other insects can be trained to be odor detectors as well. They plan to test other insects like mosquitoes, honey bees, and moths. Scientists believe one day the Wasp Hound will be able to be used by farmers to detect diseases in crops, by doctors to diagnose and monitor disease, and by airport security to detect explosives.
The advantage of wasps over dogs and electronic sensors is they are cheaper and disposable, can be produced by the thousands, and can be trained in a matter of minutes. It costs pennies to train wasps. If fed sugar water while introduced to a target smell for ten seconds; given a thirty minute break and then repeat the process twice more, they are completely trained to track the scent.
I found it quite interesting that an insect that can have you running for cover in an effort to avoid being stung can one day possibly save a life or many lives. I also wonder how many people would buy into having wasps and insects at airports and how police officers would feel carrying wasps and insects around in their police cars instead of their K9 companions.
Then there is the downside of those who are allergic to wasp stings. How will airport security and police officers be able to control those situations? While all this is still in the research stage, I find it extremely fascinating. I do think it could be a great resource for doctors to use to detect cancer and other diseases in patients early enough to save lives.
So while I find this research very interesting and believe one day it could prove to be of great value, I still think our canine friends have nothing to worry about when it comes to job security.