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Could these 3D-printed robotic flowers be the answer to the world’s bee crisis?

An Australian artist has come up with a novel way to help mitigate the global bee crisis.

Brisbane-based artist Michael Candy has created fully functional robotic flowers that come equipped with pollen and nectar.

The flower, which he calls The Synthetic Pollenizer, is designed to be installed next to real plants. The idea is to provide a safer alternative to real flowers which have become exposed to pesticides.

The Synthetic Pollenizer works just like a real flower: a human-made nectar solution travels up the stem of the Pollenizer into the stamen, which is the pollen-producing reproductive organ of the flower.

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Bees can visit the flower and sit on its 3d-printed petals to gather pollen as they normally would.

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“It has taken several years to successfully coax bees into landing on the synthetic pollenisers,” Candy told Dezeen. “The colour and form of the unit are important for attraction as bees have a variety of ways to identify flowers.”

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And that’s how babies are made.

Bees have been dying at an alarming rate since about 2005, and studies have identified pesticides and climate change as the likely culprits.

The most harmful pesticides contain something called neonicotinoids (NNI), which are now completely banned in the EU, Canada and the US. They are still legal and widely used in Australia.

Clearly, the government has better things to do like mucking up the NBN and making us participate in pointless plebiscites.

It’s pretty depressing to think that one day we may need robot flowers so that our world’s pollinators can keep doing their important work.

Oh well, on the plus side, at least it will give those robotic bees something more familiar to work with.

Last year, a team at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan engineered bee drones using a combination of horsehair, US$100 drones and a sticky ion gel.

If it sounds like something out of Black Mirror, that’s because it is – Season 3’s “Hated in the Nation” featured bee drones that ran amok and started killing people.

It’s unlikely the Japanese bee drones or Candy’s flowers will hurt anyone. But something has gone terribly awry when we need to start coming up with synthetic versions of things which should exist in abundance in nature.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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