Training of bees to detect diseases of cereals

Training of bees to detect diseases of cereals

Rapid detection of cereal diseases is key to fighting them, which can be achieved with the help of specially trained bees, says the young Serbian researcher Nemanja Filipovic. Only one bee is sufficient for detection.

In other words, a hundred detection devices can be built from a hundred bees, and that is a sign of the great efficiency of this process, ”he explained to Efe in Belgrade.

The aim of this very young Serbian scientist, only 18 years old, is to quickly detect fungal diseases in cereals because they represent a big problem and because proving their existence is a “costly and long” process.

Detect odors: "But if only some odors that these fungi emit are detected, in a matter of seconds the results would be obtained, and a lot of money would be saved," says Filipovic.

"If they are trained, bees react by sticking out their proboscis (trunk) when they smell a certain smell," he adds. For Filipovic, who specializes in electronics, it is possible to create “a device that actually records” what bees detect.

"In this way, it is possible to easily see what is happening and if they have found the smell (of the fungus)", explains the young man who has carried out a study on it at the Petnica Research Center, about 90 kilometers west of Belgrade.

This official institution of the Serbian State brings together young researchers, interested in different scientific fields.

Algorithms: To follow the reaction of the insect with an extraordinary sense of smell, Filipovic has developed special algorithms. In addition, together with another young Serbian biologist, Andjela Todevic, she has developed specific training for bees, "fixing" them on a special support, created for this purpose on a 3D printer.

Although they cannot fly when they are attached to the support, the bees continue to flap their wings, something essential because if the movement of their body is totally impeded, the bees "are under stress and cannot react to smells," says Filipovic.

Reward: The bees receive a sugary reward along with a stimulus, in this case, a certain smell, and "after a few times, they learn to link the stimulus with food."

"So every time it receives this stimulus, the bee will assume that the food will also arrive and will immediately remove the proboscis for consumption," says Filipovic.

“This reflection is inherent in their nervous system (…), this is how they are guided by the scents of flowers in nature, and when they land on a plant that is the source of their food they take out their proboscis to collect that food from the flowers, ”he explains.

In his research, he has experimented with the smell of eucalyptus because the center for young scientists does not allow the use of dangerous substances. "Bees really have enormous potential," says Filipovic, while lamenting the danger posed to these animals by the frequent use of pesticides.

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