Sadly, bees are not exactly nature's most perfect invention. They have a shockingly weak immune system which makes it truely surprising that they managed to survive as long as they did. Many pesticides and viruses plus the varroa mite weaken them in addition. In fact, in Germany the honey bee is considered to be on the brink of extinction. Fortunately, we do have a number of wild species of bees, hoverflies and bumble-bees who can substitute them to a certain dregree but these species all live solitary and hence their number wouldn't suffice to replace all honey bees.
Our farmers are most concerned about this situation and afaik there are several reasearch groups attempting to discover ways to rescue the honey bee.
The alternative, if Robobee remains more of an idea than a reality, is manual pollination. That video I linked has a segment on a rural town in China that produces 80% of the region's pear fruit. It's all done manually, because the local bee population died out long ago due to intense pesticide applications. But the humans are far less efficient, thus making the fruit more expensive, and it's getting harder to convince people to stay and carry on the effort instead of going to Beijing for higher education.
The problem is not all that new: decades ago, several species bees were imported from Africa and South America to be cross-bred with honey bees in order to improve their immune system. Unfortunately, this tactic backfired, resulting in a race of extremely aggressive "killer-bees", not at all suitable for being kept in the vicinity of humans. Personally, I'd count them rather as a B-weapon.
Yeah, I know it's not new, but the alarming thing is that it continues... And it's not just CCD. Some colonies basically reduce their populations without disappearing completely. Also, some bees are becoming less "productive" than they used to be. I had no idea that the killer bees were actually a human introduced mistake! Wow. That segment on bees actually mentions them, and given our understanding of genetics at this point, they're looking into finding a way to imbue bees with their superior immune system without passing on the aggressive behavior. I think it's a long shot, though.
Mr. Laser Beam wrote:
Robobee's main directives:
- Serve the public hive
- Sting the innocent
- Uphold the honey
But unfortunately all it can do right now is flutter around briefly before crashing.
Actually, I'm glad that the road to making these things capable of substituting for the bee is a long way off... which means efforts to try saving the bees will fervently continue.