Biomonitoring for wide area surveying in landmine detection using honeybees and optical sensing

Ross N. Gillanders, James ME. Glackin, Zdenka Babić, Mario Muštra, Mitar Simić, Nikola Kezić, Graham A. Turnbull, Janja Filipi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Humanitarian demining is a worldwide effort and the range of climates and environments prevent any one detection method being suitable for all sites, so more tools are required for safe and efficient explosives sensing. Landmines emit a chemical flux over time, and honeybees can collect the trace residues of explosives (as particles or as vapour) on their body hairs. This capability was exploited using a passive method allowing the honeybees to freely forage in a mined area, where trace explosives present in the environment stuck to the honeybee body, which were subsequently transferred onto an adsorbent material for analysis by a fluorescent polymer sensor. Potential false positive sources were investigated, namely common bee pheromones, the anti-varroa pesticide Amitraz, and the environment around a clean apiary, and no significant response was found to any from the sensor. The mined site gave a substantial response in the optical sensor films, with quenching efficiencies of up to 38%. A model was adapted to estimate the mass of explosives returned to the colony, which may be useful for estimating the number of mines in a given area.
Original languageEnglish
Article number129646
Number of pages8
Early online date18 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Nitroaromatic
  • REST sampling
  • Luminescence quenching
  • Environmental modelling
  • Honeybee


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