I gave my presentation a while ago and the topic on our rough syllabus was supposed to be “Bee Communication and Society” (for more information see Taylor’s post) but as I read through the topic and chapters I realized the information had already been quite adequately covered the previous week — things like the waggle dance, mating behaviours and pheromones. So instead I ventured to explore other topics of bee literature. (I did provide a quick rehash of bee communication as well as the different types of pheromones. Also I briefly discussed bees and their reaction to color. Bees like purple.)
I found to be interesting a number of technological developments related to the study of bee behaviour and society. The article above with the picture of the robot bee discusses modelling the brain of the honey bee, particularly their vision and smelling faculties, using computers to gain a deeper understanding of animal behaviour.
By isolating and modeling these particular functions, the researchers hope to provide their flying robot with the cognitive power required to perform basic tasks — and without a set of pre-programmed instructions. It is hoped, for example, that the robotic bee will be able to detect particular odors or gasses in the same way that real bee can identify certain flowers.
At Harvard, researchers are developing possible alternatives to bees in the form of mini robot bees. If the bees all collapse then perhaps we could use little robot pollinators in their stead. Think Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? but with bees (maybe). At least we’d still have apples.
Technology also exists for bees themselves. Bees in Australia have been equipped with tracking sensors to try and identify where they go during colony collapse disorder.
Bees both as unique organisms and as a collective society provide unique insights to task execution. It is vastly beneficial to continue to study their behaviour, as different technologies that develop could eventually use a greater understanding of bees to support both them and us.