Drone Technology and Automated Pollination, Still Work to be Done

Los Angeles Times writer Amina Khan reported last week that, “One day, gardeners may hear not just the buzz of bees among their flowers, but the whir of robots, too. Scientists in Japan say they’ve managed to turn an unassuming drone into a remote-controlled pollinator by attaching horsehairs coated with a special, sticky gel to its underbelly.

“The system, described in the journal Chem, is nowhere near ready to be sent to agricultural fields, but it could help pave the way to developing automated pollination techniques at a time when bee colonies are suffering precipitous declines.”

The article noted that, “Animal pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90 percent of flowering plants and one-third of human food crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“Chief among those are bees — but many bee populations in the United States have been in steep decline in recent decades, probably because of a combination of factors, including agricultural chemicals, invasive species and climate change.

“Just last month, the rusty patched bumblebee became the first wild bee in the United States to be listed as an endangered species (although the Trump administration just put a halt on that designation).”

Khan added that, “Thus, the decline of bees isn’t just worrisome because it could disrupt ecosystems, but also because it could disrupt agriculture and the economy. People have been trying to come up with replacement techniques, the study authors say, but none of them is especially effective yet — and some might do more harm than good.”

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