19 January, 2015

Flobots: Robotic flowers for bee behaviour experiments

by Carla J. Essenberg

A bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) foraging on a flobot
Plant-pollinator interactions are strongly influenced by pollinator foraging behaviour, and pollinators, particularly bumblebees and honeybees, are also widely used to answer general questions about learning and foraging behaviour.  Many pollinators can be trained to forage from artificial flowers, making it possible to carry out tightly-controlled experiments on their feeding behaviour.  However, refilling artificial flowers manually can require substantial time, limiting the time available for pollinators to forage.  In this paper, we describe a design for inexpensive, robust artificial flowers that can refill themselves on demand.  We also summarize a wide variety of alternative flower designs developed by other researchers. 

Read the scientific publication in JPE.