Collecting bees talk dancing. There must be someone decoding the message, yes. In the hive, dancing as if no one is watching is a waste of time. Circles that trace in the air can express, for example, the flight vector that leads to a source of food, water or resin that are up to a hundred meters away. This dance has been used by three researchers from the University of Berlin to swindle the swarms of the world. His secret weapon: RoboBee, the robotic bee.
Luckily or unfortunately, RoboBee is not a futuristic and metallic insect, but a piece of foam wrapped in plastic with two plastic wings essential to reproduce the vibrations of the dance of the bees. So pedestrian combination, attached to a carbon fiber cable that emits vibrations and moves the false hymenopter as if it were real, has achieved something that never had been possible: recruit real bees and guide them to specific destinations.
- The dance of the impostor bee
Once on the dance floor, RoboBee performs three functions wagging from side to side as their living cousins would do – the wider the bobbing, the farther the food is – the vibration of their wings and the offering of water drops with sugar to finish to convince interested bees that there is food in the indicated destination.
"After seeing the dance, most of the bees left the hive directly or collected a portion of honey shortly before leaving," the researchers explain. study resulting from your experiment.
- Convincing, but not much
However, the robot is not perfect. On the one hand, their dance seems not to be as captivating as that of the real bees, which usually encourage part of the observer group to follow the dance while decoding it. On the other hand, although the deception comes to light, RoboBee is still missing some tweaks to be convincing enough. "A correct choice of materials and a better chemical camouflage will be essential in the development of future projects", they point out.
The goal of the next RoboBee will be to be able to integrate into the hive, like a stowaway indistinguishable from the rest of the swarm. These advances would not only allow us to better understand the ins and outs of the communication of these insects, they would also open the door to the optimization of their pollination habits, to a better understanding of their needs and to new ways of monitoring the health status of the hives.