Tifton, Ga. Trained wasps could someday replace dogs for sniffing out drugs, bombs and bodies.
Scientists say a species of non-stinging wasps can be trained in only five minutes and are just as sensitive to odors as man's best friend, which can require up to six months of training at a cost of about $15,000 per dog.
With the use of a handheld device that contains the wasps but allows them to do their work, researchers have been able to use the insects to detect target odors such as a toxin that grows on corn and peanuts, and a chemical used in certain explosives.
The "Wasp Hound" research by Lewis and University of Georgia agricultural engineer Glen Rains is part of a larger government project to determine whether insects and even reptiles or crustaceans could be recruited for defense work. That project has already resulted in scientists refining the use of bees as land-mine detectors.