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Boonah beekeeper amazed bees used to sniff out COVID-19


A Boonah beekeeper is describing honeybees as “quite remarkable” after it was revealed researches had trained them to detect positive samples of coronavirus in Europe.

Dutch researchers have trained bees - which have an unusually keen sense of smell - to identify COVID-19 in a finding they say could cut waiting times for test results to just seconds.

To train the bees, scientists at Wageningen University gave them sugary water as a reward after showing them samples infected with COVID-19.

They would get no reward after being shown a non-infected sample.

Jo Martin, who lives in Boonah and is secretary of the Queensland Beekeeper Association, has told River949's Marnie and Campo this isn’t the first study of its kind.

“Many years ago there was information on the US defence department doing tests on honey bees being able to identify explosives,” Ms Martin says.

Ms Martin does warn that it is probably best not to rely on bees to detect the COVID virus but instead rely on traditional methods.

But she says what the study does show honeybees’ incredible sense of smell and eyesight, as well as how important their existence is to the world.

“This particular study is highlighting the popularity of honeybees.

“People are really starting to appreciate it is not just about honey production but that they are complimentary to our way of life.”

The Queensland Beekeeper Association has had 5,000 new beekeeper registrations in the past three years.

It is holding an open day for anyone interested in learning how to be a backyard beekeeper, on June 5, at Beenleigh State High School.

LISTEN: Ms Martin, of Boonah, talks to Marnie and Campo about bees’ incredible sense of smell

[Photo: Biosecurity Queensland]