One devastating fact that more people need to be aware of these days is that there is a declining bee population and we should all be worried about it. According to Greenpeace, about 40 percent of commercial honeybees have died across the United States since 2006 due to what scientists call Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
CCD occurs when worker bees suddenly go missing in a colony. There have been a lot of causes pointed out as to why CCD exists, but experts say that this phenomenon happens because of habitat loss, urbanization, infection, and the rampant use of pesticides.
We should all be worried because bees primarily contribute to about 80 percent of the world’s food supply. The fallout of bees could mean that our modern food system would be compromised, affecting all people across the globe, and wildlife too.
The Rise of Robotic Bees
While scientists, the government, and NGOs are seeking out ways to save the population of bees, some experts claim that there could be an alternative to continue the work of bees, by way of technology.
Today, various research are being conducted to find out if robotic replacements could be a viable solution to increase pollination. One is a drone that can be controlled manually, developed by Eijiro Miyako of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan. The drone is only four centimeters long and can collect pollen using the gel integrated into the device’s horse hair.
According to Miyako, the drone had been so far successful in cross-pollinating Japanese lilies, but he aims to develop it further in order for the drone to identify flowers by itself using artificial intelligence.
A report in March also hinted the possibility of robotic bees, as retail behemoth Walmart filed for its patent so they could cross pollinate their own crops to be sold in numerous Walmart stores across America.
What if Robot Bees Don’t Work?
Should the whole robo-bee idea fail, MIT says that there is another way to ensure pollination success, by way of pollen dusting. Pollen dusting is the act of spraying pollen over fields using a specialized aircraft. Though this may work for some crops, it may not be effective on others and can result to lower yields.
Another option is hand-pollination, a method that has been used in some Chinese provinces since the 1980s. It’s definitely tedious work, going from plant to plant and brushing each with pollen, but Chinese locals prefer this method over natural pollination to avoid having to rent out bees that have been exposed to insecticides.
How Viable Are These Solutions?
These solutions are either costly or impractical, unfortunately. Hand pollination, for one, will take 4 months to be completed by one person, and that’s only for a hectare. If we apply this method in the US, which has more than 150,000 hectares of apple orchards, it would cost millions and millions of dollars, as opposed to keeping bees alive that cost practically nothing.
Fortunately, local beekeepers are bent on saving commercial bees, going as far as using supplements like BeesVita Plus from makers Healthy Bees LLC in order to keep their colonies healthy. NGOs are also encouraging people to grow their own pollinator garden to help sustain the population wild bees and other bee species.
Robotic bee inventors are not so sure themselves that tiny drones that could mimic bee behavior will solve the world’s bee problem, so it’s best to save the population of bees in the first place. You can join local communities that support bees preservation and bee products, as well as planting bee-friendly plants to help our pollinators survive in this challenging environment.