Bees in the Netherlands are Being Trained to Sniff Out COVID-19

One advantage of this method is that most coronavirus tests take hours or days to give results. The bees, however, respond immediately.

Bees are known for being highly intelligent insects, but are they smart enough to sniff out COVID-19? According to Dutch researchers, yes.

Wim Van Der Poel, a professor in Virology and Research Leader at Wageningen University said, “It can be useful because bees are very cheap to use and you can train bees also in regions where there are no test materials available, and you could use the system to smell coronavirus positive samples."

So how do scientists do it? "We collect, we take the bees from honey beekeepers here in the region, and we use a set of these every day, and we put those bees in harnesses to fix them,”  Van Der Poel explains. “Then we present coronavirus positive and coronavirus negative samples, and after presenting a positive sample, we always present sugar water afterward.”

Afterward, the bees stick their tongue into the sugar water to confirm the positive test and lap up their reward.

One advantage of this method is that most COVID-19 tests take hours or days to produce a result. The bees, however, respond immediately. This method is also cheap, making it useful for countries where tests are scarce.

Van Der Poel says that this could start happening very quickly — maybe within a month. “The most difficult part was to show that bees can really be trained to do this, and the next step is not very complicated. We need to develop or improve the machine to put the bees in, and after that developed, the system could work pretty rapidly."

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