Robotic Bee Colony
I was out for the weekend and it seems there was a lot of talk on this subject. It happened that I had one of my bee hives swarm and I had trouble retrieving it. However, this gave me a thought of changing the theme a bit: Robotic Bee Colony.
There are 3 types of bees, the Queen that lays eggs, the Drones (male bees) that do nothing, only mate with virgin Queens and the Worker bees that do everything in the hive and in the field. I guess we can eliminate the Drones, or retrofit them with some dignity and let them do something useful. To simulate the life and work of a real bee colony, the RBC can be structured as follows:
There can be hexagonal cells scathered on the game field. The Worker bees can go out and gather them. They can have different colors inside, simulating pollen and honey. When the Workers get a cell to the hive, other Workers can use them to make comb by stacking cells and arange them in rows. There will be some empty cells where the Queen can "lay eggs" to make more Workers. When there is an empty cell surrounded by 3 cells of honey and 2 cells of pollen, an egg can be layed, and after a while another Worker bee will be "born" in the colony. To simulate the man's intervention extracting the honey and the pollen, either automatically or manually, the filled cells can be removed from the comb and scathered back in the field again.
The Queen should be more like the brain of the colony, it should send the workers to gather food, direct them to construct the comb, command them to defend the hive. Her Majesty will look for empty cells surrounded by honey and pollen to lay eggs to make more Workers. The eggs can be some small coin batery operated devices that have a counter that will trigger an IR signal to open a hatch from where a new Worker bee will enter the hive.
The Worker bees will have an age counter. Freshly came out from the hatchery, they will have to search for the Queen to give them an ID number to know to which hive they belong to. Then they will follow the Queen's orders to make comb from the empty cells laying around and the honey and pollen cells the older Worker bees gather from the field. After they make some comb, they will became older bees and ask the Queen if they can go out to gather honey and pollen. The Queen allways needs at least one Worker bee that builds comb around her, but every new Worker has to build at least one comb cell (an empty cell surrounded by 3 honey cells and 2 pollen cell). After the Workers bring in at least 3 honey cells and 2 pollen cells they will became too old to "fly" and stay to defend the hive until their internal clock will make them "retire" to the hatchery to recharge. The Workers will scoot around to find honey and pollen cells, but they may end up at the entrance of another hive, if they can get in, they can steal the cells from there. So the guardian workers have to ask them the "password" to let them enter. If they can "steal" the password, they can enter the hive, if not, they will be pushed away.
This idea can be further polished and adapted, let me know what you guys think.
Update Sept. 2nd, 2012:
Las week I was thinking about this project idea again. I really want to do it over the winter. How much it will be done, I have no idea yet. So far I think the idea presented above is a bit complicated, so I decided to simplify it. I need to simplify the bee robots to be cheap enough to build many. So I guess that the hexagonal cells for the robots to assemble to make a comb will be scrapped. I'm thinking to use a row of 5 LEDs in the abdomen to show off the nectar gathering-exchange. In the hive, I think I'll just have 2 frames painted on the board to simulate a vertical hive like we actually use in real life. The top frame will be for honey deposit and the bottom frame will be for pollen on the sides and brood in the middle. LEDs will be used to show the honey, pollen and brood in the frames, installed underneath the board. I will try to simulate the comb making, so far I don't know how, but I'll think of something. Oh well, I'll keep you posted when I'll have more ideas.