(EurekAlert/Entomological Society of America) While the field of morphology is centuries old, the last two decades have brought incredible leaps forward through the emergence of new technologies and genetic research methods. And the impact of these advances has been revolutionary for the scientists working to untangle the vast biodiversity and evolutionary paths of the world of insects.
(Engadget) Tiny robotic fliers aren’t exactly durable at present, but they may be tough critters before long. Harvard researchers have developed a RoboBee that uses soft, artificial muscles to fly without taking damage. The robot can smack into walls, crash-land or even collide with fellow ‘bees’ without getting hurt.
(Wired) Before astronauts and scientists head to the moon or Mars, they’ll prepare by living and working in space-analog environments on volcanoes, deep inside caves, at the South Pole, and even underwater. But this training isn’t just for humans: in a recent experiment, the potential space cadets were 90,000 bees. The goal was to see whether bees could join a mission to the moon or Mars, where these prolific pollinators could help sustain gardens attached to a base. The initial results weren’t great.
(Syracuse.com) Dropcopter is a startup company that uses drones instead of bees to pollinate orchards. For the second year in a row, Dropcopter has found itself a finalist in a state-funded business competition. And if it’s lucky enough to be one of the winners again, it says it will use any money it receives to expand its staff.
(TU Delft) Researchers have presented a swarm of tiny drones that can explore unknown environments completely by themselves. The challenge of autonomous navigation was overcome by drawing inspiration from the relative simplicity of insect navigation.
(Ars Technica) In August, the EPA approved the first-ever bee-distributed organic pesticide for the US market—a fungus-fighting powder called Vectorite that contains the spores of a naturally occurring fungus called Clonostachys rosea (CR-7). CR-7 is completely harmless to its host plant and acts as a hostile competitor to other, less innocuous fungi. It has been approved for commercial growers of flowering crops like blueberries, strawberries, almonds, and tomatoes.
(Boston University News Service) Researchers have begun working with local beekeepers nationwide to test Buzz, an app where beekeepers can see real-time information on how their hive is doing and be alerted to any potentially dangerous changes within the hive. “If there’s an infection, there’s medicine in a little component in the smarthive that can release. It will have an ion trap spectrometer that can detect pesticide levels and open a vent. It can communicate to the beekeeper by text, email or phone call when the temperature is dropping in winter so that the bees don’t freeze to death.”
(Verizon) Honey bee colonies are dying off in massive quantities. The troubling news has inspired a lot of people to help the insect population, including citizen scientists and amateur beekeepers. These new enthusiasts are bursting onto the scene without the experience and wisdom of professional beekeepers, many of whom come from families that have raised hives for generations. To make up for a lack of experience, the “newbees” are utilizing smartphone apps, Internet of Things connectivity, and data sharing to keep colonies as healthy as possible during a time when insects are battling pesticides, parasites and climate change.