Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Bees Help Detectives Catch Serial Killers 132

Posted by kdawson
from the geographic-profiling dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The way bumblebees search for food could help detectives hunt down serial killers — because just as bees forage some distance away from their hives, so murderers avoid killing near their homes, says a University of London research team. The researchers' analysis describes how bees create a 'buffer zone' around their hive where they will not forage, to reduce the risk of predators and parasites locating the nest. This behavior pattern is similar to the geographic profile of criminals stalking their victims. 'Most murders happen close to the killer's home, but not in the area directly surrounding a criminal's house, where crimes are less likely to be committed because of the fear of getting caught by someone they know,' says Dr. Nigel Raine. Criminologists will fold this insight into their models using details about crime scenes, robbery locations, abandoned cars, even dead bodies, to hone the search for a suspect."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Bees Help Detectives Catch Serial Killers

Comments Filter:
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @06:14AM (#24633351)
    we've known this for a long time sherlock...
    • If only the FBI had watched Silence of the Lambs, they would have known this in advance.

      CLARICE
      "Desperately random." What does he mean?

      ARDELIA
      Not random at all, maybe. Like there's some pattern here...?

      [later...]

      CLARICE (CONT'D)
      Maybe he lives in this, this Belvedere, Ohio, too! Maybe he saw her
      every day, and killed her sort of spontaneously. Maybe he just meant

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        What does he do? He covets. And what do we Covet? We covet what we see...

        I do believe it is most likely first-time killers DO kill close to home because it is their buffer zone. Then they start to spread their wings.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by sgt_doom (655561)

      WOW!! Sort of like...instead of attacking or nuking nearby Canada....invade Iraq and maybe nuke Iran.......

      Those darn serial killers!!!

      • Only a Slashdotter could somehow bring up US foreign policy in the Middle-East when discussing how to catch serial killers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K (682162)

      The problem with going public with this kind of information is also that the nastiest serial killers - they who plan their killings - actually takes notice and makes sure that their pattern is weird enough to mess up any logical conclusions from their pattern.

      Of course - sooner or later they are probably making a mistake that leads to their downfall, but by creating a offbeat pattern they can lead investigators down several blind alleys.

      This is however not limited to serial killers, but also other kinds of

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by DarkOx (621550)

        True but unless you are dealing with the really really insane murder tends to be a crime of passion. You are generally not all that passionate about people you dont know. The majority of murder victims do have a relationship to the killer.

        Just because you know something about the pattern of where the real nut jobs select their victims does not mean you have control over where yours is. So the information is not helpful to most would be killers. The real wack jobs who could use the information are pretty

        • by nospam007 (722110)

          >I have never tried but sitting here I can't think of any quick ways to dispose of a body that wont have it found pretty fast. ...

          Mmmm, vacuum dry, grind to dust, down the toilet.

        • True but unless you are dealing with the really really insane murder tends to be a crime of passion. You are generally not all that passionate about people you dont know. The majority of murder victims do have a relationship to the killer.

          We're talking about serial killers. There is usually a pattern, but knowing the victim probably isn't it (beyond the learn-everything-about-them knowing)

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Of course - sooner or later they are probably making a mistake that leads to their downfall, but by creating a offbeat pattern they can lead investigators down several blind alleys.

        How do you know that they (serial killers) will "probably" make a mistake. Sure, the ones who get caught have generally made a mistake. What about the ones who haven't made a mistake, and/ or haven't been caught? Is it not at least possible that they're in the majority.
        [ Hmmm, some murders can be cleared up easily (spouse/ parent

  • Two ways? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JohnnyKlunk (568221) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @06:19AM (#24633357)
    If read and understood by a sane serial killer (assuming these things exist). Could they then pattern their kills around a location other than where they live? Hence leading police to profile the wrong location based upon these kind of patterns?
    • Re:Two ways? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lukas84 (912874) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @06:24AM (#24633373) Homepage

      Yes, of course.

      If you kill a random person at a random location, with the only value that influences your choice of victim being the chance of getting away with it, the chances of getting away with it, if properly executed, are almost 100%.

      But that's not how it works in the real world - most murders happen for a reason, even those be insane or sane serial killers.

    • by drmofe (523606) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @07:10AM (#24633551)
      Yes. 1. Find a known serial killer. 2. Commit crimes around their home. 3. ??? 4. Profit.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uh, this whole thing seems to be based on a vast overestimation of the number of victims serial killers actually have. We are not living in a TV show, I mean, this list goes back to the 18th century: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_serial_killers_by_number_of_victims [wikipedia.org]

      I suppose it might be useful for solving some historical crimes.

    • Re:Two ways? (Score:4, Informative)

      by will_die (586523) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @08:19AM (#24633787) Homepage
      First off this behavior is also used by thieves, murderers, arsonists, basically any type of serial criminal activities, and was used is solving poisoning back in the 80s.
      The basis around most of this geographic profiling is that people put a bubble around the places they live or work so they are not to close while at the same time they don't want to be so far away that they don't feel safe or unfamiliar with the area or they don't have an explanation of why they are in that area.
      So yea someone could setup another base but you then increase the chance that you will be seen as unfamiliar in that area or if you don't know the area a good chance there is a chance you will make a mistake and the fear of making that mistake is what causes people to create that original bubble in the first place.
      There are a few pieces of software that are already being used by police and the I recently read an article where they are using this software in Afghanistan and Iraq to figure out possible locations of bomb building and enemy safe houses.
      • they are using this software in Afghanistan and Iraq to figure out possible locations of bomb building and enemy safe houses.

        yeah, and how's that going? I bet if we use these models we could find those WMD too!

        give me a break.

        I am fully in favor using all tech at our disposal to be better at law enforcement (while still respecting civil rights of course), but what scares me is the underlying theories behind how they use this data. They actually think that all human behavior is quantifiable and that if we ca

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I would say no. To be a serial killer it implies that you murder more then one person, generally have the same Modus Operandi and some times your victims carry similar traits or are the same in some way. I would think if you kill around your home a pattern would emerge in a very tight area and police would catch on. The only thing you would accomplish is having them profile you as someone who kills spontaneously and has little or no self control, which would be the opposite of what you are trying to accompl
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      From my extensive knowledge gained by watching "Diagnosis Murder" and "Murder She Wrote", there's always a false lead; the obvious suspect at the 20 minute mark is never ever the real culprit.

      So that would be a yes.

  • doing their serial killing far away, bombing countries half the world away. While just imposing embargoes on those next door, to reduce the risk to the hive. You don't need Bee theory, forensics or the CSI team to figure out who is doing the killing though.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2008 @07:21AM (#24633581)

      doing their serial killing far away, bombing countries half the world away. While just imposing embargoes on those next door, to reduce the risk to the hive. You don't need Bee theory, forensics or the CSI team to figure out who is doing the killing though.

      Riiight. So please explain Russia invading Georgia, China invading Tibet, Indonesia invading East Timor.

      Look, if you want to pick on the USA, please go ahead. There are many good & bad things about US foreign policy. But meaningless new-age psychobabble doesn't accomplish anything except making you look like an anti-American kook.

      • Mod parent up. And let's not forget Iraq invading Kuwait, Israel invading Lebanon, and a half a dozen "neighbors stopping into Israel for a friendly attempt to take over".
      • Those were actions because buffer-zone was invaded by a percieved threat; those countries threatened their neighbor because of the relatively greater freedom or differing religion or philosophy. One way to make a serial criminal crazy is to determine his exclusion zone, and move a real or imaginary rival into activity there.

    • by dword (735428)

      You don't need Bee theory, forensics or the CSI team to figure out who is doing the killing

      Yes, you do. That theory about the bubble makes a lot of sense, but when it comes down to practice and real numbers, you do need the Bee theory and the forensics and the CSI team to figure out where the next kill would be or where the killer lives. You'd probably say "around there" but that's not good enough for the police nor to the people living in that area who know there's a serial killer "around there." We need to study the details of this behavior in order to increase the precision of our predictions

  • RFID (Score:2, Insightful)

    by niceone (992278) *
    TFA mentions that they are also tracking the bees by glueing RFID tags to their backs. I wonder if any politicians reading this might start thinking of a more direct way to use this work to catch criminals...
  • by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary,address,for,privacy&gmail,com> on Sunday August 17, 2008 @06:38AM (#24633429)

    The insight that killers don't kill too close to their homes help detectives. It has nothing to do with bees, really. Bees just happen to behave in the same way.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bromskloss (750445)

      And it's not biotech as someone tagged the story! Scheesh!

    • The article uses the word murderers, which do in fact kill near their 'home turf', and by and large kill people they know, per known statistics. Though being a serial killer really isn't a crime itself, it's just a subtype of murderer that performs multiple instances.

      Though, the fact that this subject matter is of high interest to selling movies, tv shows, and newspapers, then the real insight might be that a reporter is exaggerating this 'killer' relationship in order to gain readership to what many may
    • by OriginalArlen (726444) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @08:09AM (#24633741)

      The buzz I've heard is that they're setting up a sting operation. Using a honey-pot.

      Thanks, mine's the white boilersuit with the veil and hat on the next peg.

      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        Thanks, mine's the white boilersuit with the veil and hat on the next peg.

        The Register's thattaway, son, and we don't have any of them thar fancy Paris icons and smileys either!

        • Yeah, but dammit I'm going to get Mark Williams' finest hour floated as a net-wide meme if it takes me a lifetime... *adopts steely expression*... an eventuality for which I am well prepared.
    • by vidarh (309115)
      RTFA. The article makes the point that the researches hope that future research on the behavior of bees can be used to improve on crime solving techniques. That's why bees are relevant.
    • by jslarve (1193417)
      Best said by Navin Johnson (from "The Jerk") while being shot at by a deranged gunman : "He hates these cans!"
    • by Atari400 (1174925)
      Seargent, they've been dismembered!

      Quick, get in Eric the half a bee!

    • I look forward to a string of unsolved murders as people kill thier annoying neighbors. "Well detective, the murder occured on this street in Albany NY so I suggest we start looking in Fairbanks Alaska."

  • by Anonymous Coward
    crims don't do it on their home patch... as too many people know them... I live in a dodgy estate... lots of people with heavy form here... but it's safe for me as they do all their crime where any potential witnesses aren't likely to know them. The only worries I have are from the inexperienced petty types desperate to get money for their next fix... and they'll only be able to do me the once... cos my friends will pay them a visit...
  • by Hektor_Troy (262592) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @06:44AM (#24633453)

    Use one program to select the town of your victim at random.
    Find a written phonebook from the area and pick a page at random using ten sided dice.
    And use the same dice to pick a person at random from that page.

    Now you have your victim - it could be you (start over), your neighbour, your boss - doesn't matter all that much.

    Next you pick a method of execution at random as well.

    If you have no modus operandi, they can't really catch you. See Richard Kuklinski [wikipedia.org]

    But learn from his mistakes - if you're using a freezer to keep the time of death obscured, thaw them before you dump them.

    • If you have no modus operandi, they can't really catch you. See Richard Kuklinski

      Not really - in fact, from the article you link to [emph mine]:

      Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski was a convicted murderer and notorious contract killer.

      • And if you read a bit further down, you'll notice that one of the reasons they knew they were dealing with something suspect in one of his cases, was because they found a FROZEN body in the middle of summer. That was his modus operandi.

  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @06:46AM (#24633457) Homepage Journal

    ...it would really sting knowing that they were caught because of a bee.

  • DAMN IT. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 17, 2008 @06:48AM (#24633471)

    I was honestly hoping they discovered a way to manipulate bees to hunt down serial killers and "catch" them.

    oh well, back to my plans for the beezooka.

  • Wonder on what the numb3rs tv series is based. If i am not wrong the first 2 series did exactly that. Finding the pattern is not allways so hard. You just have to atribute everything to the right killer (freak, nerd).

    • I was thinking exactly the same thing. The whole "calculating thehot zone" method of catching the criminal was a main plot point of the pilot episode.
  • The idea inspired by the bees is certainly not new (not to say that studying the bees won't add useful information).

    I vaguely (it was so long ago - maybe 10 years) recall either a public radio program or a magazine article about a man who wrote a book about the same idea, based on lions' hunting habits - forming a ring around their home area, and there were some examples of actual criminals located with the help of this pattern.

    Then I heard an old time radio program, "The Whistler", episode "X Marks A M

  • This is just a way of marketing Bee Movie 2.
  • Colony collapse (Score:1, Insightful)

    by moteyalpha (1228680) *
    If they discover why colony collapse happens, then they could cause colony collapse disorder among serial killers. The concept seems very old as it has been stated. These principles would apply to all situations and to consider another application, how to identify the source of lobbyists that poison information wells. It would seem that they would have to go to great lengths to conceal their -hive- and would constantly move it to obfuscate matters further. All tools can be applied to help and hinder, the ro
    • It is indeed an old concept. I've been watching Law & Order for years and they've used that premise several times. And if it's been aired on a show like that, you can bet it's been in the police's knowledge database for even longer.
    • by Maelwryth (982896)
      I wasn't aware that serial killers formed colonies?

      Then, I wasn't aware that Bumblebees did either (although they are pretty small, and they break up over winter while the queen buries herself, and I am buggered if I would call it a colony, but there it is in bold print on the Sex for vegetables [quicksilver.net.nz] website.).
      • I wasn't aware that serial killers formed colonies?

        Okay it was a very weak joke. But I have thought about this and it seems that Hannibal Lecter was the most insightful saying "you should look at what they covet". I guess like protecting any asset, whether it is network security, data , military bases, or people, the easiest way is to protect it at the target and prevent it at the origin. The path between seems as it would be virtually infinite in possible convolutions.

  • by jovius (974690) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @07:36AM (#24633637)
    Is this what they call a sting operation?
    • by Maelwryth (982896)
      "Is this what they call a sting operation?"

      No, but it does lead to Flight of the Bumblebee!
  • I, for one, welcome our Hymenoptera overlords, and should like to inform them that as one with a knowledge of both Latin and Ancient Greek, I could prove invaluable to them in tracking down the ancient lost nectar mines.

  • I see two major flaws with applying this behavior to crime...

    First, bees live in an essentially homogenous environment - They generally travel less than a mile, and have a more-or-less equal chance of finding something yummy in any direction from the hive. Most humans tend to live in population clusters (aka "cities"), with those preferring (or needing) solitude (ie, serial killers) tending toward the outskirts of the cities. Thus, their "hunting ground" would have a strong bias toward the city, with li
  • How about a sane serial killer distributing their murders after reading this article? I can already imagine this article making it to the top at the SSK(Slashdot for Serial Killers) with more than a thousand comments(assuming we have that many serial killers) thanking kdawson for this insight into their psychology.
  • If you know where the killer's house is in order to draw this donut around it, why not just go there and arrest them? If you're arguing that the killing is in a donut, there are an infinite number of donuts that a killing could belong to, so I don't see how that helps you find the killer's house if you have any less than 3-4 body(ies) in different location(s) that are actually arranged in a donut around a central location.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dogtanian (588974)

      If you know where the killer's house is in order to draw this donut around it, why not just go there and arrest them? If you're arguing that the killing is in a donut, there are an infinite number of donuts that a killing could belong to, so I don't see how that helps you find the killer's house if you have any less than 3-4 body(ies) in different location(s) that are actually arranged in a donut around a central location.

      Mmm..... donuts.

      OMG!!!!! Homer Simpson is our serial killer!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What a great idea, spend a bunch of public money researching something that constitutes 0.000001% of all crime.

    It's just like numb3rs !

  • by jabithew (1340853) on Sunday August 17, 2008 @09:05AM (#24634025)

    "University of London" is a loose federation and should be treated as such, not all colleges are equal. This story should have been reported as originating from Queen Mary's College, University of London.

    UL contains world-class institutions such as UCL, Kings and LSE, but it also contains places like Heythrop College, essentially a seminary in all but name.

    This is exactly the issue that made my alma mater leave last year. When evaluating the quality of research, "University of London" is not a useful label.

    • by jabithew (1340853)

      (Which is not to say that Mary's is bad, it's rather good, but the story should have reported as from Queen Mary's, not from UL)

  • I seem to remember the 'serial killers don't kill near their homes' thing being part of the plot in a Numb3rs episode a couple years back, but it wasn't in terms of bees. Granted, TV isn't an accurate representation of real life, but I don't think the writers came up with the idea entirely on their own.
  • Brave bees help track down a serial killer! Find out more about these adorable heroic bees in the news at 11 o'clock tonight!

  • It would be nice (especially for the subsequent 99) for the police to catch a murderer after the first one, not wait for 100 or so and then run a analysis on the distribution.

  • So uh, anyone seen Muhammad Ali lately ?

    He's been kinda quiet, a little too quiet.
  • If this is true that they don't murder in the area near to where they live, doesn't this run counter to the basic idea behind offender lists? Maybe the people living in the immediate area near where an offender is living are aware of the situation. However if this study is true, then they people not in the surrounding area are the ones at risk. The entire idea of offender lists is filled with flaws.

  • Goddamned idiot cops again.. bees ?

    So they plot the crime scenes on a map, extrapolate a circle once they have enough data points (which means they've been sucking their thumbs for a while), then go to the center of the circle and hope to find some wacko with weapons and whatever other evidence they've so carefully planted to save face.

    Who needs solid investigative skills and eyewitnesses when ZOOLOGY can achieve the same success rate with none of the hard work ?

    I want to like law enforcement, I really do!

    • by DI Rebus (1342829)
      For fun, go to your high school reunion. Try to remember all of the students with personality disorders and notice how they all became policemen or joined the army. G.E.D + Authoritarian streak - Imagination = Career in Law Enforcement. I remember hearing an interview with an animal rights activist in the UK. You know, the sort of person who protests developments because they might hurt badgers. Well, the police sent a notice to one that they wanted to talk to her and they didn't know she was titled. (So
      • by Torvaun (1040898)

        At least at my school, a fair number of them became engineers.

      • by billcopc (196330)

        Seeing how I went to one of those mildly pretentious schools (though it was worth it), everyone either became a lawyer (assholes), artist (flunkies), or I.T. guy (depressed and broke).

        Well there are a handful who leveraged daddy's independent wealth to become annoyingly smug globe trotters who apparently do nothing but post pictures on Facebook.

        But I do agree with you on the career path. In this day and age, you have to be either retarded or hopeless optimistic to even consider becoming a police officer/in

    • There's nothing to say they're going to drop every other investigative method and rely on this, so most of your rant is pretty pointless. Although I too fail to see how this is "news".

      As for the last part, law enforcement rarely has much (if any) say when it comes to deciding what is and isn't a crime and how they should be policed and punished. Most of that is politicians trying to look good by being "tough on" whatever the latest fashionable-to-be-against crime is.

      At the end of the day, the cops hassle te

  • NUMB3RS (Score:1, Redundant)

    This sounds like an episode of NUMB3RS for next season.
  • This isn't ground breaking research. I have a degree in the Social Sciences. When I was researching papers and taking a few criminology courses, the professors, texts and journals had said that it wasn't uncommon for law enforcement to use this. Are there more specific ways they use this? Sure. Its no mystery. But there's no reason to be more specific.

    Sooner or later, these people are generally caught because they made one mistake. And its impossible to know all the techniques and science used to catch them

  • "If bees were to disappear from the face of the Earth, serial killers would run rampant and destroy all of mankind within five years!"

    You can read about this scary prediction HERE! [easyurl.net]

    As well, Einstein also said that bees would develop artificial intelligence surpassing that of all Mankind's computer power by 2012, whereupon the price of a barrel of honey would surpass the price of a barrel of oil! Honey? You think I jest?
    Do the math! It already IS more expensive than oil! Scary!
    He also said that W
  • Congratulations on telling us something we learned in third-grade biology, Sherlock.

    It's a well-known fact that after a serial killer dispatches a victim, they return to their hive.

    They then perform a dance to indicate to the other serial killers where they killed their victim, and where the best serial-killer victims may be found.

    Scientists can easily identify a serial killer by the characteristic dance they perform.

  • Bees do forage near the hive. Why anyone believes they don't is a mystery. Perhaps they have never had a beehive near their house.

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw

Working...