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Scientists train bees to sniff out COVID-19

Dutch researchers have found an unusual way of contributing to the fight against COVID-19- through trained bees. The researchers out of Wageningen University have trained 150 bees to sniff out the virus.

In the university press release, which has yet to be published, the bees are trained using a sugar-water reward system. When exposed to the scent of a positive COVID-19 sample, the bees were rewarded with sugar water.

“We collect normal honeybees from a beekeeper and we put the bees in harnesses,” he said. “Right after presenting a positive sample we also present them with sugar water. And what the bees do is they extend their proboscis to take the sugar water.” The extending of their tongues to take sugar water is a confirmation of a positive test.

Training bees to smell the coronavirus
Wageningen University Press Release

The group believes that with their technique of training bees, they’ll be able to cut down wait times for COVID-19 tests to mere seconds.

“Not all laboratories have that, especially in smaller-income countries,” Wim van der Poel, a professor at Wageningen University, told The Washington Post.  

“Bees are everywhere, and the apparatus is not very complicated,” he stated. 

Van der Poel told the Post he believes the bee COVID-19 testing can achieve a roughly 95 percent accuracy rate by using multiple insects per sample. 

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