Robotic Bees Are Now Being Built To Pollinate Crops Instead of Real Bees
Honeybees pollinate almost a third of the food we consume, but they’ve been dying at alarming rates due to threats like habitat loss and disease, as well as colony collapse disorder (CCD), the phenomenon where worker bees abandon their hives, leaving behind only the queen bee and enough food and nurse bees to help take care of the immature bees and the queen. There is also increasing evidence of a direct link between neonicotinoids, which are the most common type of insecticides, and CCD.
Then, last week, federal authorities placed seven yellow-faced bee species native to Hawaii on the Endangered Species Act.
And while honeybees have been dying off in many countries over the last decade, causing widespread concern over how much of the world’s food crops will get the pollination they require, different authoritative approaches have been implemented. The White House gave a task force a mere 180 days to create a plan to protect bees and other pollinators, for instance. The National Pollinator Health Strategy plans to:
- “Restore honey bee colony health to sustainable levels by 2025.”
- “Increase Eastern monarch butterfly populations to 225 million butterflies by year 2020.”
- “Restore or enhance seven million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years.”
But other scientists have taken different avenues for dealing with the crisis, using modern technology to replace living bees with robotic ones. Researchers at Harvard University introduced the first RoboBees back in 2013. Led by engineering professor Robert Wood, the team created bee-size robots that can lift off the ground and hover midair when connected to a power supply.