A team of Japanese researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has recently designed these artificial pollinators using horsehair, drones, and a specially formulated ion gel.
How can they do the task of pollinating? Just like naturally occurring bees, a bee-like drone flies into flowers, and inside of these flowers, the pollens attach to the drone’s sticky ion gel and horse hair. Flying off to the next flower, the drone shakes off the pollens it has collected from the previous flower.
The sticky ion gel responsible for gathering pollen from flowers was formulated accidentally by Eijio Miyako, a chemist at AIST. When he first synthesized it, he thought of the gel as a failure and did not use the formulation for a decade. Recently, Miyako checked on this gel and observed that it was still sticky even though a decade has already passed, and thought that it would be a perfect choice for his new study on RoboBees, which he is the project leader.
Now, no matter how good this type of technology is, we should be reminded that it is not a solution to dying bees. Targeting the root cause of the unprecedented death of bees will save natural bees from dying and render these RoboBees unnecessary.
So why are bees dying? A 2014 report from Time magazine stated that according to a study from Harvard’s School of Public Health, the pesticides were to be blamed for the Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon characterized by worker bees suddenly leaving their colonies without warning. These pesticides contain neonicotinoids, which are reported to be detrimental to bees’ health and are banned in the EU, Canada, and United States.
Climate change could also be contributing to the massive death of bees. In a published article by 2015 Science journal, it was shown that many species of bumblebees in the United States were affected by the loss of habitat and increases in atmospheric temperatures.