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This paper presents an application of the bees algorithm (BA) to the optimisation of neural networks for wood defect detection. This novel population-based search algorithm mimics the natural foraging behaviour of swarms of bees. In its basic version, the algorithm performs a kind of neighbourhood search combined with random search. Following a brief description of the algorithm, the paper gives the results obtained for the wood defect identification problem demonstrating the efficiency and robustness of the new algorithm.