Honey bees spend hours each day collecting pollen and packing it into tidy bundles attached to their hind legs.
But all of that hard work could instantly be undone during a sudden rainstorm were it not for two substances the insect uses to keep the pollen firmly stuck in place: bee spit and flower oil.
Now researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology are looking at that mixture of ingredients as a model for a bioinspired glue because of its unique adhesive properties and ability to remain sticky through a range of conditions.
“A bee encounters not just wet and humid environments but windy and dry surroundings as well, so its pollen pellet must counteract those variations in humidity while remaining adhered,” said J. Carson Meredith, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “Being able to withstand those kinds of changes in humidity is still a challenge for synthetic adhesives.”