A Taste of RoboBee Honey

Mathilde Nakken
November 4th 2016

Bees are dying at an alarming rate, with radical consequences for humans too since these insects are essential to our food production. Without bees pollinating flowers, we could not have strawberries, peppers and apples on the supermarket shelves. While most scientists are focusing on keeping bees alive, Wyss Institute researchers at Harvard are developing a replacement for bees: RoboBees.

A RoboBee is only the size of half a paperclip, with ultra thin wings flapping 120 times per second. Inspired by the biology of a bee, the research goal is to create a mechanic pollinator that mimics the real insect.

"RoboBees will work best when employed as swarms of thousands of individuals, coordinating their actions without relying on a single leader" says Robert Wood, engineering head at Harvard. "The hive must be resilient enough so that the group can complete its objectives even if many bees fail".

For now the RoboBee is flying only if connected to a wire, not pollinating or communication with others at all. Still ten to 15 years of research have to be done before the RoboBee will be able to pollinate crop fields. Can you imagine a future scenario in which RoboBees make honey?

Creating new techniques to support pollinators is essential. Though it is incredible how such a small creature is so difficult to be copied by humans. So maybe instead of fully mimicking the bee, enhancing the hive with a RoboBee might be more suitable. A RoboBee cohabiting with real bees could monitor health, spread medicine and send out information to the beekeeper. Inspiration can be found in the Queen Bee Drone from our What’s Flying There? coloring book.

Source: Wyss Harvard, Business Insider. Image: Wyss Harvard

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