Bees as delivery devices?

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kokogiak/ Some rights reserved.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kokogiak/ Some rights reserved.

Here's another bee item to mull over, good or bad.

According to this report from CBC, researchers in Canada are experimenting with bees as a delivery method for intentional distribution of different material, as the insects make their regular pollination rounds:

“We thought we can give added value to the bees by having them deliver microbial control agents,” said Les Shipp, a federal senior research scientist based in Harrow, Ont., outside Windsor.

Shipp found that bees leaving their hives could be forced to walk through a tray of organic pest controls. The pest control sticks to the bee's legs and hair. Through pollination, the bees then deliver a fungus, bacterium or virus to its intended destination.

Here's a bit more on Shipp (quoted above) and some of the research he and others are working on.

While not entirely new, current developments on this technique are of great interest to greenhouse growers, which makes a lot of sense. It may seem harsh, but many such operations rely on boxes of bees for very specific functions. (That is, they pollinate the mostly-contained premises and are usually disposed of once that need is met.) If the same super-efficient bee tool can be tuned for double or triple duty, that does open up new possibilities.

The laypersons' comments on the CBC article are almost entirely skeptical or negative.

It's a bit off-topic, but the first thing that came to mind when I read the bee article was an often-controversial dolphin program run by the U.S. Navy. (Even though animals have been used for innumerable human goals from cave days on, some have qualms about possibly re-purposing Flipper as an assassin.)

What's your take? Good idea? Bad idea? Or something that depends on what's used and how well it is regulated?

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