Invention of Sticky Gels Supports Artificial Pollination

In a time to cope with the declining population of Honey bees, researchers in Japan have developed a technique. They artificially pollinate lilies with the help of insect sized drones coated with ionic gels and horse hairs around their surface. This gel is sticky enough to pick up pollen grains from one flower and transfer it to other flower.  The designers of drones are expecting this to help reduce the burden of commercialization on colonies.

In 2007, Eijiro Miyako, a chemist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) Nanomaterial Research Institute was inspired by news reports on robotic insects and threats over honey bees. The ionic gel was viscous and non degradable even after 8 years. Then Miyako started his tests on ants and houseflies and found camouflaging properties also. Finally, he worked on four propeller drone covered with gels and horse hairs to increase surface area for pollen to adhere.

The findings are applicable and useful to agricultural and robotics industry. These robotic pollinators will reduce pressure on honey bee colonies. Thus honey bees are released to purely focus on honey production rather than to supply them for crop pollination. This is the first intelligent initiative to address the future with lesser bees.



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