You often hear, if all the bees in the world were to become extinct, humans will soon die off the face of the Earth. Well, that is mostly true as this little insect play a major role in pollinating our crops and plants in general. Without them, there will be an acute shortage of food supply; although other animals like birds, bats, and other insects do pollinate plants. Then again, we can always make us some robot bees!
That brings us to the focus of this article; robo bees versus real bees. While it is true that real bees number is declining; all that to the man’s selfish ways of invading their natural habitats and killing their colonies with pesticides. It is also true man are in the early steps to making robo bees that could potentially replace real bees. However, as of now, the robo bees have a lot of catching up to do.
Well, the robotic bees we are talking about here are actually miniature drones fitted with sticky hairs to mimic the role of bees in the natural process of pollination. The team behind this innovation has written a report about the robo bees in the journal Chem, where they gave an account of the effectiveness of the robo bees.
The team demonstrated the robo bees on an open bamboo lily (Lilium japonicum) flower, where with a bit of practice the drones were steered into flying picking up 41% of pollen available in its three landings. The drones were able to pollinate the flowers in 53 out of 100 attempts.
Fitted with a patch of hairs laced with non-toxic ionic liquid gel and some static electricity to give it the stickiness required to lift and stick the pollen grain. The results were impressive.
The robot bees require a human to remotely control their flight path in between flowers, take off, and landing. Given to pollinate several acres of land, you will require hundreds of these miniature drones, it is not feasible to employ hundreds of human drone pilots to control them.
That is where bees outdo the robo bees and by far. However, there is a workaround this problem; fit the robo bees with GPS and some artificial intelligence software, so they can take off, buzz in and out of flowers and return to the base station when they detect battery levels are running low, or unfavorable weather is about to set in.
Then again, the process of pollination is an intricate art, which bees have perfected over millions of years in evolution. The robo bees though promising, have a lot of catching up to do.
Take, for instance, notwo flower species are the same. It takes delicate art to enter and exit different types of flowers, some are harder and complicated than others. For that reason, each species of bees have narrowed down to specific small groups of plants to which they buzz in and out. Please do not forget, bees do so in search of food to feed themselves and their brood back in the hives. Pollination is just a by-product.
Looking at robo bees, it would take complex algorithm input into their artificial intelligence for the drone to single out specific types of plants and their flowers. In regards to the flowers they can fly in and out, and ones they should avoid.
Bees have also mastered the art of taking the most optimum route in between flowers to save time and conserve energy. As they do so, remember bees work in teams, and they have to coordinate themselves to minimize chances of the same flower being served by several bees, while others remain not served. These teamwork skills have been honed over millions of years through evolution. The bees also have to make quick independent decisions about whether or not to land on a particular flower, based on their observance of its health.
In a nutshell, what makes bees the super pollinator we can only hope our robo bees to match in the future is their teamwork, learning, and independent decision-making; skills that have been honed over millions of years. Each bee has to make the decision on which flowers are suitable, the best flight path to save time and energy, and later afterwards to keep themselves clean and avoid problem that could be brought about by stale pollen grains latching onto them.
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