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Tag: insects

Boston museum will attempt to fight art-damaging bugs with a Weimaraner

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is training a dog to sniff out pests that could damage artwork.

Riley, a three-month-old Weimaraner, would be the first dog trained specifically to detect moths and other pests that could damage high-value artwork in a museum.

“It’s really a trial, pilot project. We don’t know if he’s going to be good at it,” said Katie Getchell, the deputy director of the museum. “But it seems like a great idea to try.”

museumdogAfter Nicki Luongo, a museum employee who trains police dogs on her own time, got Riley as a family pet, discussions began on whether she might be able to train him to detect damaging insects that tend to eat through textiles and wood.

My money’s on Riley, because dogs have proven time and again that their noses can sniff out almost anything — from cadavers to cancers, explosives to bed bugs, turtle eggs to ants.

Most museums take steps to prevent pests from threatening artwork, including quarantining any new works. Still, moths and other bugs sneak in, occasionally hitching a ride on a visitor’s coat, the New York Times reported.

Riley will be trained to learn specific bugs’ scents, and alert his handlers by sitting in front of an artwork when he detects them. At that point, museum staff would more closely inspect the artwork.

If Riley is successful, museum officials say they would share what they’ve learned with other museums and organizations that need to protect textiles, Getchell said.

Riley was presented with his own museum photo ID badge last week, according to CBS in Boston.

Riley would do his detecting after hours.

(Photo: Boston Museum of Fine Arts)

Flight of the bumble bee

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Smooth as it may look — especially when one’s zooming toward your head — the flight of the bumble bee is actually an awkward affair.

In fact, it’s surprising they even get off the ground.

According to a report in the journal “Experiments in Fluids” (in case you didn’t get your copy this month), an Oxford University study observed bumble bees in free flight within a smoke-filled wind tunnel, and found them to be “surprisingly inefficient.”

“Aerodynamically-speaking it’s as if the insect is ‘split in half’ as not only do its left and right wings flap independently but the airflow around them never joins up to help it slip through the air more easily,” the study leader said in a statement.

Most flying insects and birds rely on aerodynamic forces, but, with the bumble bee, it’s a matter of brute force — augmented, researchers say, by their diet of energy-rich nectar.