Innovation That Matters

Robotic flowers

Robotic flowers suggest new way to help keep bees safe


An Australian artist has created 3D-printed robotic flowers to help save the declining bee population.

Brisbane, Australia-based new media artist Michael Candy has translated his interest in robots into a potential lifeline for bees. Pollination of crops by bee is essential to human food consumption, and bees worldwide are suffering. Maladies range from mysterious hive deaths to changing habitats. A number of projects are seeking ways to help support bee populations. An example is the wifi hive monitoring system which is helping smaller scale or personal apiaries remotely track hive health at a cost lower than commercial satellite monitoring. For airborne bees, drone pollinators are being developed to help reduce the volume of work required by each hive for continued crop growing success.

Now, with Candy’s robotic flowers, called the Synthetic Pollenizer, bees may have another aspect of support. With pesticides and other bugs harming many bee populations, robotic flowers could be a much safer way to pollinate. The Synthetic Pollenizer system is designed to sit in the middle of real plants in order to encourage the bees to use it. Each flower contains pollen and nectar, and the 3D-printed petals are modeled on those of the rapeseed plant. Currently in the conceptual stage, Candy has been working on the system for three years. He has gone through multiple iterations to get the color and shape just right to attract bees.

The flowers use a mechanical network to push synthetic nectar to the flowers to attract the bees. Once they land on the flower, the bees pick up pollen as they normally would on a real plant. Candy used a hive pollen trap to collect enough pollen to use in the robotic structures, which regulate the amount that is released to each flower. How could the teams behind sustainable development initiatives work with innovators in technology to achieve healthier bug and animal populations?



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