Science

Drone Bees May Take Over Pollination Functions As Performed By Real Bees

By Charles Omedo , Feb 16, 2017 06:08 AM EST
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Gigantic swarm of bees forces people to duck for cover

Considering the decline in bees and other natural flower pollinators in the US, Japan and other parts of the world, scientists are hard put to the task of creating artificial pollinators such as drones to help undertake the task of pollinating flowers for crop yield. This idea of drone pollinators is still in its infancy, but it is already being tested in several parts of the world, and promises to be perfect with time. To this end, an industrial design student of Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, Anna Haldewang, has created a drone machine designed to artificially pollinate flowers and crops with real pollen grains to cover up for the lapses of declining bees. Haldewang calls her drone bee "Plan Bee", ostensibly a Plan B for bees' failure to pollinate flowers. Haldewang's creation is receiving wide reviews at the moment and is currently the subject of much debate and further research among academics.

Haldewang's Plan Bee drone pollinator

According to Daily Mail, Haldewang came up with the idea of creating her drone bee when she learned about the declining population of bees and other pollinating insects in the wild. This is important knowledge because plants can't yield crops without pollination of flowers - just a baby cannot be produced without sexual union between a man and a woman. Haldewang reported designed 50 drone bee models before finally settling on her current model for the Plan Bee - which doesn't actually look like a bee in any way.

Having secured a valid patent for the design and technology of Plan Bee, Haldewang plans to release it into the market within two years, but not until she perfects its use for nearly 90% flower pollination accuracy. Haldewang's drone bee has propellers to keep it flying or hovering over flowers and six curved columns up which it can stand. Under these sectional columns are tiny holes into which the drone collects pollens as it hovers over plans and then releases the pollens to the appropriate plants later for pollination.

Salient issues with using drones to pollinate flowers

A study reported in the journal Chem detailed how Japanese scientists used drones to pick pollens form a bamboo lily and deposit same in another flower to facilitate pollination, the Independent reports. But using drones to pollinate flowers cannot be as near perfect as what natural bees or other insects can do. For instance, bees sometimes work as a team to optimize the function of flower pollination by identifying the flower that needs pollination, optimizing their routes between pollinations, and repeating the pollination task much later where the first attempt failed.

Bees can also tell if a flower has been pollinated before their arrival by identifying the telltale signs of other earlier visitors. They are also able to recruit help in pollinating a wide expanse of crops in order to keep other insect pollinators away. And then bees develop the natural judgment to identify flowers suitable most for pollination and get the task done efficiently without getting contaminated with stale pollen. These facts among others are what designers of drone bees must understand and incorporate into their creations.

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