Artificial bee drone pollinators are created by scientists from horse hair and ionic sticky gel. They would be helpful to bees that are listed as endangered species for the first time to recuperate.
Bees are one of the insects we think are always there. They are tiny creatures that we often see in swarms looking like they are an army on a mission to every habitat on the planet with insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Losing Bees in the turn of the Millenia
Sadly, we might no longer hear that buzzing sound as for the first time in the history of the United States Fish and Wildlife, a species of bees, specifically the rusty-patched bumblebee called Bombus affinis, is listed as endangered. Hawaii, the first to list seven species, and Canada also included the bee in the endangered list in 2016 and 2012, respectively.
These small workers are responsible for the world’s food crops as they pollinate up to 75 percent of fruits, vegetables, and nuts we eat. The pollinator endangerment is alarming as this could lead to a global food crisis and famine.
Serendipity of Pollinators
A group of researchers found a way to create bee drone pollinators that move pollen from one flower to another in order to make fruit or seeds. The discovery of artificial pollinators is the “result of serendipity” according to one of the study’s researchers, chemist Eijiro Miyako.
During a lab clean up, Miyako was surprised to see his wax-like sticky gel remaining the same after a decade. Miyako shelved the gel after he considered it a failure to create liquid electrical conductors back in 2007.
Because conventional gels cannot be used for a long time, Miyako said they tried to use the material since it “didn’t degrade and was still so viscous.” In their experiment, they coated ants with the gel which they observed caught more pollens than those without.
In another test, gel-coated houseflies were seen to have a change in color when exposed to varying light sources. This opens avenues for artificial pollinators to have a camouflaging ability against predators.
After the gel’s sticky capabilities are proven, the next step is to create the body of the bee drone pollinators that would perform the task. AIST colleagues Yue Yu and Masayoshi Tange came up with the idea to use horsehair on the surface of a $100 four-propeller drone.
If this might sound or look familiar, it is because we have actually seen this concept from a Netflix series, Black Mirror. But in the British sci-fi anthology series, the bee drones are used as public surveillance that is programmed to assassinate a public figure hated and chosen by Twitter users. They were sugarcoated by the government as Autonomous Drone Insects to rectify the declining bee population.
Of course, Japan’s bee drone pollinators would nothing be of the same sort. Moreover, these artificial bees will not entirely replace the natural pollinators but instead give them enough time to ameliorate their collapsing population.