Pollinators participate in the sexual-reproduction of plants. When you eat an almond, beet, watermelon or sip on coffee, you’re partaking of an ancient relationship between pollinators and flowers. But since the 1990s, worldwide bee health has been in decline and most evidence points to toxic pesticides created by Shell and Bayer and the loss of genetic biodiversity due to the proliferation of GMO monocrops created in laboratories by biotech companies like Monsanto.
But never worry, those real life pollinators—the birds and the bees, as they say—may soon be irrelevant to the food needs of civilization. Harvard roboticists are developing a solution to the crisis: swarms of tiny robot bees made of titanium and plastic that can pollinate those vast dystopian fields of GMO cash crops.
The Harvard Microrobotics Lab has been working on its Micro Air Vehicles Project since early 2009. Borrowing from the biomechanics and social organization of bees, the team of researchers is undergoing the creation of tiny winged robots to fly from flower to flower, immune to the toxins dripping from petals, to spread pollen. They even believe that they will soon be able to program the robobees to live in an artificial hive, coordinate algorithms and communicate amongst themselves about methods of pollination and location of particular crops.
Of course, published reports from the lab also describe potential military uses—surveillance and mapping—but the dime-sized cyber-bees have yet to be outfitted with neurotoxin tipped stingers.