Science

Robot Bees Create Buzz As They Promise To Help In Pollination

By Donna Bellevue , Feb 11, 2017 02:58 AM EST
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In Japan, robot bees are making buzz as the invention promises to help save the world by replacing the important functions of bees. Due to the rapid decline of bee population, farmers worry about the future of agriculture as bees, natural pollinators, help in the proliferation of plants. Now, scientists have managed to turn an ordinary looking tiny drone into a remote-controlled pollinator by attaching horsehairs coated with a special, sticky gel to its underbelly.

The system might not still be ready to be sent in agricultural fields, but the purpose of the robot and its ingenious design are enough to get some of the farmers' hopes up. Described in the journal Chem, the system is said to be able to help pave the way to developing automated pollination techniques. This kind of promise, the development of robot bees, comes at a time when bee colonies are suffering precipitous declines.

90 percent of flowering plants and one-third of human food crops rely on animal pollinators for reproduction, according to the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The bees are the chief pollinators, but due to their dwindling population caused by a combination of different factors such as pesticides, virus, and climate change, there is now a potential threat to agriculture. The ecosystem can also be seriously disrupted due to this problem, the Live Science reports.

Scientists developing the invention say that for now, none of them are especially effective yet. "One pollination technique requires the physical transfer of pollen with an artist's brush or cotton swab from male to female flowers," researchers wrote in the study. Unfortunately, the process requires much time and effort. In sum, most of the designs that they have tested still need more time to actually work, the Stuff reports.

In the meantime, one of the more promising designs come from scientists in Japan where they use a special gel which they discovered through serendipity. Now, they're using the material for picking up pollen grains. The scientists do not think such robot bees would replace bees altogether, but could simply help bees with their pollinating duties.

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