Bees trained to detect COVID can speed up testing.

Reuters has a sweet story on honeybees that have been trained by Wim van der Poel at Wageningen University to expect a treat every time they smell a COVID-infected sample – so within seconds of smelling one, they stick out their tongues. If they can be proved to as accurate as chemical tests, they could reduce waiting times for results down to a couple of seconds:

“We collect normal honeybees from a beekeeper and we put the bees in harnesses,” [van der Poel] 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 the bees’ straw-like tongues to drink is confirmation of a positive coronavirus test result, according to the researchers.

It can take hours or days to get a COVID-19 test result, but the response from the bees is immediate. The method is also cheap, potentially making it useful for countries where tests are scarce, they said.