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Old January 26 2013, 05:10 AM   #1
Gary7
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Robobees and the future of the bee

We often think of population limits being based on usable space for habitation, but there are so many other factors to consider.

You may have heard about CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), where massive numbers of bees mysteriously die. They actually fly off from the hive never to return, with no indication as to why.

The situation is becoming more and more grave. Research has managed to pinpoint at least one confirmed cause of CCD, that being a virus that causes paralysis. But bees have also been known to vanish in areas where pesticides are heavily employed, weakening their immune systems, making them susceptible to fungi that stricken them until premature death occurs. There is also a theory that our massive agricultural production engine has significantly curtailed biodiversity for bees and they're becoming malnourished, ultimately compromising their ability to fight off viruses. See the PBS video, "The Silence of the Bees".

Meanwhile, a few different universities are trying to come up with nanobots that may eventually function like bees (Robobees). While a novel idea and noble ambition, I don't think that they'll ever really manage to recreate a bee's behavior and capability within our lifetimes. Still, the present concern is to achieve pollination of plants, not to create honey. I wonder if scientists could ever create fully artificial bees that would produce designer honey.

In any case, we have a huge dependency upon bees for crop pollination and without them, there will become a major food shortage as human populations continue to grow and pressure the agricultural industry simultaneously. It's a really unnerving situation. So... never kill a bee. Treat it with respect and if trapped in your home, help it safely leave.
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Old January 26 2013, 05:33 AM   #2
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

I always treat bees with respect. The bees are our friends.

Gary7 wrote: View Post
. . . Still, the present concern is to achieve pollination of plants, not to create honey. I wonder if scientists could ever create fully artificial bees that would produce designer honey.
Sounds like a pretty far-fetched idea if you ask me. And stop calling me "honey."
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Old January 26 2013, 05:58 AM   #3
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

I can't beelieve the direction this thread has already taken.
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Old January 26 2013, 07:03 AM   #4
scotpens
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
I can't beelieve the direction this thread has already taken.
That was a stinging remark.
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Old January 26 2013, 07:17 AM   #5
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

We need to build buzz for this idea.
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Old January 26 2013, 10:52 AM   #6
Rhubarbodendron
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

Valid points, Gary. As a biologist I doubt that it will ever be possible to build a fully functionable bee substitute.
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 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 improove 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.
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Old January 26 2013, 12:14 PM   #7
Deranged Nasat
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

I've heard it suggested that the emissions from phone masts, etc, might be another contributing factor to colony collapse.
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Old January 26 2013, 01:08 PM   #8
JarodRussell
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

Meanwhile, a few different universities are trying to come up with nanobots that may eventually function like bees (Robobees). While a novel idea and noble ambition, I don't think that they'll ever really manage to recreate a bee's behavior and capability within our lifetimes. Still, the present concern is to achieve pollination of plants, not to create honey. I wonder if scientists could ever create fully artificial bees that would produce designer honey.
[Conspiracy Keanu]
What if our ancestors have already done that before?
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Old January 26 2013, 01:17 PM   #9
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

I am phobic about stinging insects, and can live without honey. I don't give an oven baked shit if they all die out.
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Old January 26 2013, 03:25 PM   #10
Mr. Laser Beam
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

Robobee's main directives:

- Serve the public hive

- Sting the innocent

- Uphold the honey
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Old January 26 2013, 07:01 PM   #11
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

Rhubarbodendron wrote: View Post
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.

Rhubarbodendron wrote: View Post
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: View Post
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.
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Old January 26 2013, 07:31 PM   #12
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

Ah, but the question is: If half a bee is not a bee, due to some ancient injury, is it still a bee?
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Old January 26 2013, 08:11 PM   #13
Deranged Nasat
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
Robobee's main directives:

- Serve the public hive

- Sting the innocent

- Uphold the honey
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Old January 26 2013, 08:12 PM   #14
Deranged Nasat
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

SmoothieX wrote: View Post
I am phobic about stinging insects, and can live without honey. I don't give an oven baked shit if they all die out.
I'm pretty sure that if they die out, so do we. Or a great number of us, anyway.
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Old January 26 2013, 08:20 PM   #15
Mr. Laser Beam
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Re: Robobees and the future of the bee

^ That sounds like a subject of a B-movie.
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