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Japanese scientists are pollinating lilies with drones

In 2007, researcher Eijiro Miyako developed liquids that could be used as electrical conductors. One of his attempts resulted in a sticky gel. Useless, he thought, and the gel was put away in a drawer. Ten years later Miyako came across the gel again during a major cleanup in the laboratory. And suddenly he saw that the sticky gel indeed offered possibilities. Could this gel not be used to pick up pollen?

Initially Miyako took the acid test with ants. He smeared their bodies with gel and then set them loose in a box with tulips. The gel-covered ants were found to carry much more pollen than the ants who were not covered. In another experiment - this time with houseflies - the gel turned out to have a camouflage effect as well. The gel changed in color in response to different light sources. By applying this gel to an artificial pollinator, it might ensure that the pollinator would not be noticed by predators. 

But would the gel works as well on artificial pollinators as on ants and houseflies? Miyako would like to see that question answered. So he started experimenting with a small drone.

Publication date: 2/16/2017
Author: Mark Mandemakers



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