The world’s bees are dying at an alarming rate. Over the course of the past few decades, the populations of these vital insects have taken a marked dip, one recent study showed that 44 percent of bee colonies in the United States collapsed in 2015. When 70 out of 100 of the top food crops worldwide are dependent on pollinators like bees, that’s a scary figure.

So what is causing this drastic loss of bees? In a sad and ironic twist, the very pesticides that we spray on crops, primarily those in the neonicotinoid group, ensure high yields is leading to the downfall of bees. These pesticides work by attacking the nervous system of insects, but unfortunately, they have no way to discern between a good insects, like bees, and pests. Many scientists and conservationists are very concerned about the uncertain future of bees, especially considering the vital role they play in feeding us – and many other species.

In an effort to make up for the loss of bees, a team of engineers at Harvard University has a plan: replace them with a new kind of bee. The RoboBee.

No, this isn’t science fiction. This is for survival.

Business Insider/Harvard University


Currently, the RoboBees are only able to hover when tethered to a power supply, but the eventual goal is that these little miracles of science will be able to fly autonomously in order to pollinate commercial crop fields. In an interview with Business Insider, Harvard’s Kevin Ma said “You could replace a hive of honeybees that would otherwise be working on a field of flowers. They would be able to perform the same task of going from flower to flower picking up and putting down pollen. They wouldn’t have to collect nectar like real bees. They would just be transmitting pollen.”

Yes, it seems that the decline of the bee population has backed us into a corner to the point of desperation. The researchers estimate that we’ll be able to release a swarm of RoboBees fully capable of pollinating our food within a decade. RoboBees may not be a solution to our very real problem, but according to Ma, “Having a multitude of options to deal with future problems is important. It’s hard to predict what exact solution we would need in the future. Flexibility is key.”

The fact is, RoboBees are not a quick fix solution to this problem. The harmful chemicals that are causing the decline in bees also have the potential to harm other pollinating species as well as us. Solving this problem is not as simple as replacing bees – we need to get to the root of the issue and find a solution for our broken agriculture system first. The good news is there are many things that you can do to achieve this end. Yes, RoboBees are cool, but if you want to stave off the impending future where we will NEED them to survive, check out these articles on how you can help save the bees:

Lead image source: AgFunder/Twitter