Robots are destined to become friends with animals: this is demonstrated by the experiment in which a robotic beehive managed to protect bees during the winter. Conducted at the Polytechnic University of Lausanne by Rafael Barmak, the research is published in the journal Science Robotics. This opens up an important alliance between robots and animals, notes Donato Romano, of the BioRobotics Institute of the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, in the focus published in the same issue of the magazine. From the interaction between animals and robots, observes the expert, new solutions could arise for the conservation of biodiversity and the promotion of sustainable technologies for environmental management.
The robotic hive is capable of monitoring life in bee colonies and interacting with them. . “Barmak and colleagues took advantage of bees’ sensitivity to temperature to develop a robotic hive that can interact thermally with Apis mellifera carnica colonies,” notes Romano. In particular, the robotic hive was based on the collective behavior that allows bees to survive the cold and maintain a temperature threshold that allows them to be active. That is, they aggregate in a compact structure called ‘glomere’, within which an optimal microclimate is created for the bees. The robotic hive “was used to observe the colony, collecting the thermal profiles of the bee cluster for long periods”, explains Romano, and “allowed biohybrid interaction with the bees, exerting a minimally invasive influence on the architecture and on the structure of the nest”.
The robotic hive has also proved to be potentially useful in providing support for bee colonies most affected by the harsh winter temperatures. During the winter, when temperatures drop drastically inside the hive, weakened bees can fall into a coma that often leads to their death. By activating the systems that allow it to control the temperature, the robotic hive prevented the weakest bees from falling into a coma, thus preventing the decline of the colony.
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