Bees are one of the most important parts of our ecosystem and without bees, we won’t have much to eat. Bees are responsible for the pollination of a major part (one third) of our global food and one can’t even imagine a life without bees. All types of fruits and vegetables are pollinated by the honey bees, like apples, broccoli, squash, and almonds.
But the rate at which we are losing these important and vital bees is drastic. For the year 2015-16, the total colony loss rate was 44 percent and that is much higher than the previous two years.
Looking at the current rate of bee loss, we must find an alternative, through which we can fill the void left by the loss of bees and for that purpose, Eijiro Miyako, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has made designs for a new technology which one day can become our solution for lack of pollination in the future.
This new technology is an insect size drone that will be capable of artificial pollination. These tiny robot bees are coated with a patch of horse hair bristles and an iconic liquid gel. They can be used perfectly for transferring pollen from one plant to another.
The conventional gels are mainly made of water and lose their stickiness with time. But the gel used in the robot has a long-lasting sticking feature which makes it unique and more useful.
But Eijiro Miyako isn’t the only one working on robot bees as Haldewang, a senior at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia has also developed a prototype robot bee. It is a hand-sized yellow and black device which can be used for artificial pollination.
The prototype bee is made of foam core, plastic shell body and a pair of propellers, which has been used to keep it airborne. The six sections of the drone have tiny holes through which it sucks the pollen from flowers while hovering over it. After that, the pollen is stored in the body cavity before being put on another plant for cross-pollination.
The robot bee is still in its early stage of development, while the developer is still fine-tuning the engineering. It has been named as Plan Bee and it is one of 1,600 new concepts SCAD’s design student develop every quarter as part of their coursework.
Artificial pollination is already possible, but it’s tedious and a time-consuming process. The traditional method of artificial pollination involves a person who uses a brush to apply the pollen. But due to the time taking method, it takes many days to do so. In one day, only five to ten trees can be pollinated. And when fields with thousands of trees need artificial pollination, then things become a bit challenging.
Therefore, the need for a faster method like the Robot bee is very much necessary.