"Researchers in the program, dubbed the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project, published their findings on Monday.
By exposing the insects to the odor of explosives followed by a sugar water reward, researchers said they trained bees to recognize substances ranging from dynamite and C-4 plastic explosives to the Howitzer propellant grains used in improvised explosive devices in Iraq."
Whether using live or manufactured mini-bugs of warfare, the key is nanotechnology. Many advances have been achieved in just the last few years, and the U.S. has already established a National Nanotechnology Initiative, whose budget has jumped from the millions to an expected $1 billion in research and development. The concerns of developers and theorists alike project startling advances and grim new realities of war as well:
"Virtually every aspect of human life would be affected: for example, tiny robots could be sent into the human body to locate and destroy cancerous cells or viruses, or even correct failing organs at the cellular level, leading to indefinite extension of the human lifespan.
The dangers posed by MNT (molecular nanotechnology) are also nearly limitless: cheap, fast mass production would enable spasmodic arms races; improved smart materials could make current weapons systems much more capable, or permit creation of entirely new classes of weapons.
Perhaps the most publicized danger from MNT is the so-called "gray goo" problem, where self-replicating nanomachines essentially out-compete the naturally occurring life forms on earth."
Human history has already had molecular encounters of many kinds which shifted civilization itself. A microbe can challenge more than just one person, it can challenge a society. A recently published account of how the city of London battled the outbreak of cholera in 1854, "The Ghost Map" details one such encounter, long before science had even connected the "bug with the disease."
It just isn't a science-fiction concept anymore -- yet one of the best examples of that, however, Neal Stephenson's award-winning "The Diamond Age" explores an astonishing world where nanotech is not only the norm, it can affect the ways in which all levels of society develop. A molecular-based have-and-have-not social structure.
Mini-spy drones are presented in the book in ways which current research and development indicate may be active in the very near future.