Natural vs. Artificial Pollinators


Today there is an epidemic that is creating havoc on the main contributors of pollination to crops grown around the world.  Bees have been dying each year at a higher rate. Pollination is accomplished when pollinators fertilize plants, resulting in the formation of seeds and the fruit surrounding seeds. “Bees pollinate 71 out of 100 crops that are grown around the globe. These 71 crops account for 90 percent of the food the world eats. Consequently, the 44 percent loss of commercial bees reported in April 2016 is serious. Speaking for himself and other commercial beekeepers, Adee estimates in the last five years $1.2 billion of bees have been lost.”(1)


Why are these bees dying? What is the reason for this?  According to the Nevada Appeal, “Although not all beekeepers believe pesticides are largely to blame for the bees' deaths, more and more of them see a link between the two. Scientists at pesticide/chemical companies still hold that the Varroa mite is the main culprit, but others suggest pesticides weaken the bees' immune systems, make them vulnerable to viral diseases and parasites.”(1)


If pesticides are causing bees to die and even beekeepers agree that there is a link then why hasn’t this been handled more appropriately? “Studies by chemical companies like Monsanto, Bayer, and Sygenta are generally suspect (like placing the fox in the henhouse), and the Environment Protection Agency is also pretty useless here since it can only review studies, not conduct them.”(1)


The unfortunate reality seems to be unchanging, however some have come up with ideas to help the bees to pollinate the flowers so that our crops will fruit.

“Eijiro Miyako, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has designed what he believes could one day be a partial solution: an insect-sized drone capable of artificial pollination. Coated with a patch of horse hair bristles and an ionic liquid gel, these pint-sized robots can collect and transfer pollen from one plant to another.”(2)


Can this be a possible solution for the dying bees? There are actually “20,000 species of bees in the world, each with unique flight patterns and body sizes to get into different flowers.”(2) This causes us to look at the marvel of creation and the detail of such artwork.


The drones are still in a testing stage and are manually controlled.  How many drones would be needed to pollinate a farm?  “Typically, in an almond grove, two hives (80,000 bees) serve one acre of trees.”(1)


This solution does not seem to address the cause of the rise in bee deaths.  Although it does at least address the demand for pollination of flowers caused by the lack in the pollinators.  “Quinn McFrederick, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, sees some potential for eventually using drones to pollinate commercial crops, especially if programmed with artificial intelligence. But he, like many experts, says it makes much more sense to protect our natural pollinators than to develop new technology.”(2)


Pesticides used on crops are poisons and are used to kill insects. Bees are insects and these pesticides not only kill harmful pests but they also kill beneficial insects as well.  As a result we see a steady rise in bee deaths and farmers are forced to rent bees just to have their crops pollinated. The alternative to pesticides not only would help bring back the bee population but would also prove beneficial to all forms of life.  Growing organic foods is the more reasonable solution to the problem with the loss of these pollinators, the bees.


[1] Author, A. (date). Title of document [Format description]. Retrieved from http://URL

[2] Carlson, U. (2017, February 28).  Fresh Ideas: Honeybees: 44 percent dying but still not endangered [Nevada Appeal]. Retrieved from http://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/opinion/fresh-ideas-honeybees-44-percent-dying-but-still-not-endangered/

[3] Ponti, C. (2017, March 3).  Rise Of The Robot Bees: Tiny Drones Turned Into Artificial Pollinators [NPR]. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/03/03/517785082/rise-of-the-robot-bees-tiny-drones-turned-into-artificial-pollinators

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