Will Artificial Pollination Replace Bees?

Pollinating bubbles and laser technology distribute pollen.


(Happetr / Shutterstock.com)

In Bee Movie by DreamWorks Animation, the bee Barry B. Benson has the opportunity to join the Pollen Jocks foragers to learn about “pollen power.” He witnesses how pollination takes place and why it is so important. As one of the leaders of the hive explains to him, “More power, more flowers, more nectar... more honey for us.”

When people think about pollination, they usually think about bees and other insects, however, there is now a global decline in the number of these natural pollinators. This decline is due to habitat loss, the use of pesticides in farming, invasive species, and climate change, among other issues. 

According to a report from the United States Department of Agriculture, 75 percent of flowering species and 35 percent of the world’s food is dependent on pollinators for reproduction. As farmers can no longer rely on animal pollination, finding ways to make artificial pollination work is becoming very important.

Now, based on groundbreaking innovation, a few methods of artificial pollination are being considered that could even impress the hard-working Pollen Jocks!

A revealing study has been recently carried out by a group of researchers from the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) and published in iScience. The scientists propose using bubbles as a low-tech solution to generate artificial pollination.

According to Mongabay, the researchers demonstrated that soap bubbles can carry and expel the essential pollen. Filling bubble guns with the pollen-bubble solution and discharging it on pear trees proved to successfully produce new fruits.

The team also used a controlled drone loaded with the pollen-bubble formula that could target fake flowers with 90 percent accuracy from a height of 6.5 feet and traveling at a distance of 6.5 feet per second. For the moment, this technique has some challenges to overcome as it needs ideal weather conditions as many pollen bubbles are blown away.

Another method of artificial pollination that is already available on the market comes from an Israeli-based company called Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture. Their process involves the use of special vehicles and laser technology to accurately distribute pollen among the plants. 

While artificial pollination seems to be a promising and effective solution, there are those who believe that human beings protect the bees by putting their efforts toward conservation instead. While man-made innovation might be highly effective in monocrop agricultural systems, the natural and more complex environments require an alternative approach.

The world could benefit from these innovative artificial pollination technologies. However, as seen in Bee Movie, humankind needs those tiny essential creatures who quietly and efficiently make it possible to have abundant, rich, and diverse ecosystems.

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