Birds, Bees…and Drones

     Albert Einstein is the attributed author of this prophetic quote: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, mankind would have no more than four years to live.”

     The recent mysterious deaths of millions of wild honeybees is disturbing on many levels. Bees perform their natural duty of transferring pollen from male plants to female plants, thus completing the fertilization cycle resulting in new plants being born. (How’s that for sex education in a nutshell?)

     Unfortunately due to an increase in pesticide usage, the world’s bee population is rapidly dwindling. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is happening at a record pace. When the drone bees disappear, the queen can’t survive, and the colony collapses. Curbing pesticide usage to save the bees may not be enough of a solution to correct the devastation that has already occurred. If the trend continues and the bee population can’t replenish itself, mankind will suffer an unprecedented food shortage.

     Crops such as almonds, peaches, plums, apples and cherries rely heavily on bee-assisted pollination. Honeybees are responsible for the production of over 90 different types of foods The current variety of produce available to us would be drastically reduced.

     Doomsday forecasters predict that within three months of the last bee dying off, farmers would face record low harvest yields. Grocery stores would have to explain to consumers why almond butter costs have tripled. After six months, farmers would have to convert their growing fields to less bee-friendly crops. Wheat is one of the only crops that can grow without the aid of bees. People with wheat allergies would be the next disappearing species.

     While the bee-pocalypse might not signal the end of mankind, it could cause the price of an apple to jump to about $16 dollars each. An apple a day would cost more than some health plans.

     Scientists have come up with a unique fix to the disappearing bee population. Tiny robotic flying drones have been outfitted with horse hair bristles on their tiny robotic legs. The horse hair is coated with a sticky gel that collects the pollen much the same way a honeybee does. Hordes of these tiny drones are sent out in the fields where they fly from flower to flower, extracting pollen and pollinating the next plant as they buzz about. Surprisingly, this pollination method works and the plants are reproducing. This solution is almost as terrifying as the problem. Regular killer bees are horrifying enough. Imagine a colony of metallic mechanical drone bees going berserk and attacking the human population. I’m a fan of doomsday apocalypse scenarios as much as the next guy, but this one feels a little too real.

     Maybe the pesticide situation can be reversed and the lives of millions of bees can be saved before it’s too late. A bee-pocalypse would be devastating. A robot apocalypse is already underway – just ask “Alexa”. If you own an Amazon Echo Dot you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t own one, you will soon. It’s all part of the robot leader’s master plan. Now we can add a robot-bee uprising to the growing list of possible end-of-the-world scenarios. And if the flying robot-bee drones ever cross-pollinate with zombies, $16 dollar apples will be the least of our problems.

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