To Robobee or not to Bee

Photopolymer etching and linocut Chine-collé, 56 x 38 cm, 2013

Recent press on the “Robobee”, a small flying robot developed by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, has triggered speculation that these small robots could be used to pollinate crops in the future. Bees are responsible for most commercial crop pollination in the US and Canada (not to mention many, many wild plant species in general). The recent phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) among bees has many experts worried about the future safety of our food-crop supply.

The engineering feat of making a robobee is undeniable, but I found it very sad that we have to contemplate the idea of mechanized crop-pollination.

Bees are a bell-weather of the health of our ecosystem, and CCD tells us there is something seriously wrong with our approaches and methods of modern commercial farming and beekeeping.The affliction of Colony Collapse Disorder massively wipes out beehives, in which the bees simply leave the hive and disappear or die. There are many interrelated factors causing this crisis, but one very likely culprit is a group of pesticides labelled Neonicotinoids. They are in wide use today, and there is a wide call for banning these harmful pesticides. Neonicotinoids could well may be the DDT of the 21st century.

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