Pollinating drone is finally developed to decrease bee extinction. Japanese researchers invented tiny insect-sized drones that can artificially pollinate plants. This is, for now, the best shot for the future saving more and more endangered species in the United States.

Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate, and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives

Colony Collapse Disorder

Since 2006, a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder has affected honeybees in many countries and we’re not entirely sure what’s causing it. Disorder includes worker bees abandoning colony and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. Some of this decline can be blamed on viruses or on some forms of insecticide. This further cause millions of hives death in the past few years. Beekeepers all over the world have seen an annual loss of 30-90% of their colonies. In the U.S alone, bees are steadily declining. From 5 million hives to 2.5 million today. A few months ago 7 species are added to the US endangered Species List, so the decreasing trend is in constant grow. The latest reports claim that 16 percent of vertebral pollinators are threatened with global extinction.

Colony collapse disorder causes significant economic losses because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by western honey bees.

The consequences of this trend can be huge for humanity. Approximately 70 percent of the fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts we consume suddenly no longer being viable resources if there would be no more bees. Converted in the money $200 billion in global agricultural revenue. So, the scientists across the world struggling to find the solution to save such an important species.

Pollinating Drone Development

The team from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo designed the insect-sized drones hat can artificially pollinate plants, so-called pollinating drone.  The story begins a decade ago when chemist Eijiro Miyako examined ionic liquid to find any resolutions that could make good electrical conductors. To achieve that he developed sticky gel, but with no success for electrical conductivity. Disappointed, he put gel in an uncapped bottle in storage. Years later, he discovered something astonishing. The gel didn’t degrade and was still viscous. He decides with his team to research gel and test it.

Finally, they took little drone, just 4 centimeters ( 1.6 inches ) across, which is small enough to maneuver across a field of flowers and put the horse hair and gel on its surface. The horse hair mimic the fuzzy exterior of a bee. They test it on Japanese lilies and drone artificially pollinating the plants. This causing them to begin the process of producing seeds.

An artificial pollinator taking off. Credit: Dr. Eijiro Miyako

Now, the team planning to use the drone in nature. Of course, the pollinating drone isn’t a permanent solution for the general problem with bees, but al least we can slow down the consequences of their extinction. In a meanwhile, a bunch of scientists searching for a resolution that will make again the environment sustainable for them.