Bees join hunt for serial killers*

beeYes indeed. The BBC News website today (30 July 2008) reports on some research on the way in which bees seek food which “could help detectives hunt down serial killers, scientists believe”.

Here’s some more from the report:

Just as bees forage some distance away from their hives, so murderers avoid killing near their homes, says the University of London team. This “geographic profiling” works so well in bees, the scientists say future experiments on the animals could now be fed back to improve crime-solving. The team’s work is reported in the Royal Society journal Interface.

“We’re really hopeful that we can improve the model for criminology,” Dr Nigel Raine, from Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL), told BBC News.

Later the report reveals that the research team includes Kim Rossmo, detective-turned-geo-profiler.

Instead of using information about the distribution of flowers visited by bees to explain the insects’ behaviour, criminologists’ models will use details about crime scenes, robbery locations, abandoned cars, even dead bodies, to hone the search for a suspect.

“Bees have much simpler brains and so understanding how bees are recruited to flowers is much easier than understanding the complex thoughts of a serial murderer,” Dr Raine said.

Well the cynics would say that’s one reason why a bee-model might have some limitations when it comes to hunting serial killers.

Here’s the reference:

*In the entertaining headline contest, the BBC lags far behind the Royal Society with “Bees can help detectives to ’sting’ criminals” and the Welcome Trust with “Criminal Bee-haviour“. Is no one going to use “scientists set a honey-trap for murderers”? (I’ll get my coat.)

UPDATE: Thank you to Aaron Jacklin for a link to the pre-publication paper [pdf] on Nigel Raine’s QMUL web pages.

Photo credit: Automania, Creative Commons Licence

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