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Solving the Bee Crisis One Robot at a Time: How Do Robot Bees Work?

Feb 28, 2017 09:16 AM EST
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The world is facing a bee crisis, and researchers are trying to solve it by using technology. The solution? Robotic bee "drones" that will replace actual bees in plant pollination.

Eijiro Miyako and his colleagues  from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology are working on a way to solve the bee crisis by analyzing their behavior of bees in certain flowers such as Japanese lilies. Their study was published in the journal Cell Press.

The result is a drone that can cross-pollinate Japanese lilies. Miyako and his team relied on the principle of cross-pollination, something bees are known to do, as demonstrated in this video.

Read Also: Pesticide Ban: Evidence Links Chemicals to Bird, Bee Deaths, Extinction Threats

According to New Scientist, cross-pollination works under the principle that a middle man has to transfer pollen from one plant to another. This enables flowers, who cannot self-pollinate, to reproduce.

Unfortunately, recent reports show that actual bees, who acts as pollinators, are dwindling because of threats from pesticides and climate change. This decline will greatly affect about three-fouth of crops worldwide.

Miyako tried to solve this problem by creating bee drones that can be manually controlled. The drone's bottom part is covered in horsehair that has a special sticky gel. Flowers will deposit pollen to the gel, which will then be transferred to the next flower.

Current improvements on the bee drone include cameras, GPS and AI to help farmers guide and direct the drone to areas where they need to pollinate.

However, Saul Cunningham from the Australian National University in Canberra said that using robotic bee drones to solve pollination is possible but may not be a smart idea.

Cunningham explains that there are plantations which sprawl over thousands of kilometers, and using bee drones may inefficient and hard to manage. He said that there are other ways of managing the bee crisis, such using fewer pesticides and efficient bee management.

Read Also: Researchers Discover New Virus in Hawaii That Threatens Bees, Pollinators Worldwide

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