Words by Tess Becker
One of the biggest focuses of the conservation movement is the protection of pollinator species like bees, which pollinate many of the plants that we rely on every day.
However, from a mix of pollution, pesticides, global warming, and other human-caused ailments, bees are dying out in droves. According to the Bee Informed Partnership, a non-profit focused on protecting bees, beekeepers across the United States lost 45.5% of their managed honey bee colonies from April 2020 to April 2021.
To address this, scientists are working to protect bees, and a new invention may do just that.
The invention is a robotic honeycomb from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the University of Graz in Austria. The design is intended to provide a potential ‘life-support’ system, providing consistent monitoring and warmth during colder months.
Bee’s behavior is regulated by temperature, and using the robotic honeycomb, they can influence the bee’s actions within the hive.
“Many rules of bee society – from collective and individual interactions to raising a healthy brood – are regulated by temperature, so we leveraged that for this study,” explains first author Rafael Barmak of the team's work. “The thermal sensors create a snapshot of the bees’ collective behavior, while the actuators allow us to influence their movement by modulating thermal fields.”
Using this technology, the researchers hope they can help give honey bees a boost as they continue to struggle, ideally protecting them from the elements and monitoring the overall health of the hive.
If you want to help bees in other ways you should check out the Planet Bee Foundation, another organization focused on protecting bees.