Bug Blog

What Robots Can Tell Us About Insect Behavior

What Robots Can Tell Us About Insect Behavior

Researchers are now embarking on a seemingly impossible, and certainly challenging task.  This task involves building robots that resemble insects in order to learn more about the social behavior of insects.

For example, researchers have developed a robot nicknamed “the bee-bot” to mimic ritualistic “waggle dances” performed by bees while in a beehive.  And these “bee-bots” are not just developed and used to satisfy intellectual curiosities, but these robots are also used to help bees avoid perilous circumstances that they otherwise would not sense due to their limited sensory capabilities.

For more examples “bee-bots” can be used to help bees avoid damaging mites, or send signals to bees telling them of future weather conditions.  The latter example involves “bee-bots” releasing pheromones to signal to other bees when weather conditions are not ideal for the hatching of a new brood of bees.

However, and as you can imagine, making machines to mimic the behavior of certain insects is not an easy task despite the simple nature of insects.  One method of making insect-robots learn the behavior of real insects is to mix a few robots with real insects and put the resulting group of robots and insects into a situation in which the group must find the most adequate shelter.

Using this method researchers have noted that the insect-robots pick up and mimic the behavior of the real insects, in this case roaches.  So who knows, maybe a hundred years into the future these robots will feel like real insects and we will be finding them in our backyard.

How else could scientists use robots to learn more about insects?