Maybe Plan Bee Isn't the Best Option

A quick refresher if you weren’t here for the first post- the bee population is dwindling and if trying to replenish them doesn’t work, then we will have to turn to some sort of alternative for pollination. We also covered that human pollination is out of the question, which, in case you were curious, it would not be feasible nor economic for humans to pollinate both crops and wild plants by hand. It would not be easy to identify specimens that would potentially be at risk if bees died out completely. But for robots? Manual pollination would absolutely be feasible. Robots don’t need breaks other than to recharge. Some drone bee prototypes were developed in 2017 and put to work to see how effective they could be. These bees that were designed and developed by Anna Haldewang showed a lot of potential, but the project has been quiet as of late. And actually, a correction to our previous post, Anna Haldewang’s model wasn’t the first- it seems that in 2013 Harvard developed a drone bee. The Harvard model bees are able to stick to surfaces and dive/ swim in water in addition to fly/hover. Either way, both of these developments are prior to the bee patents filed by Walmart. In our last article concerning robot bees, we briefly covered that in 2018, Walmart filed a patent for a robot bee. Can you imagine walking around a field or a botanic garden and a terminator bee sponsored by Walmart buzzes past you? If not, it’s ok because we can’t either. Apparently, the technology for these “pollination drones” (as Walmart puts it) could potentially pollinate crops and plants just as efficiently as real bees. The claim is that the drones can do everything real bees can with the use of sensors and cameras (think a tesla, but instead of driving a car, it’s driving a bee) to locate crops and the relevant parts of the crops for pollination. The robot bee patent was filed with 5 other patents for farming drones, all with different purposes. What was Walmart's goal with these patents? That is not clear at this time and wasn’t clear when the patents were filed. The current speculation is that it might have something to do with Walmart’s attempts to improve its grocery business. That would make sense if the focus for the last few years hadn’t been grocery delivery specifically. The second biggest question here is what impact could mass produced robot bees have? It’ll either be great or terrible. Great, in that the robot bees would be able to take over pollination from bees in the event that the bee population drops so low that they are unable to pollinate on a large scale anymore. Ignoring the environmental impact of the sudden loss of living bees, large “populations” of robot bees released in the wild could be terrible in that predators of bees could potentially start to prey on robot bees and who knows how that could negatively affect the natural food chains. If small plastics can kill turtles, small plastics combined with metals and batteries will probably kill birds (and whatever is unlucky enough to eat an impacted bird). Food for thought- plan bee might be great, but environmental factors must also be taken into account. 

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