A research paper by scientists at the Beijing Institute of Technology verified the steering control effect of honeybee by applying electrical stimulation on the unilateral optic lobe.

Effective steering responses and successful rates of honeybee under electrical stimulations with different duty cycles

Credit: Jieliang Zhao, Beijing Institute of Technology

A research paper by scientists at the Beijing Institute of Technology verified the steering control effect of honeybee by applying electrical stimulation on the unilateral optic lobe.


The new research paper, published on Jul. 21 in the journal Cyborg and Bionic Systems, validated the effectiveness of unilateral optic lobe electrical stimulation for steering locomotion control of honeybees, and explored the motion control parameters with the highest successful rate.


As an emerging field, the cyborg insect encompasses an insect carrier and manual control modules, and realizes the dynamic pre-setting of its behavior by disturbing the insects’ motion through the manual control module. Comparing to the microaircrafts, cyborg insects exhibit exceptional superiority of high stealth appearance, adaption in unstructured environment, low power consumption, and affluent sensing system, due to inheriting the biological appearance, athletic ability, and sensory organs of the insects. “Except for the applicability in military reconnaissance, cyborg insects have incomparable application potential in biodiversity protection,” said study author Jieliang Zhao, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.


“A highly efficient and reliable locomotion control strategy is a prerequisite for cyborg insects to complete the preset assignments,” explained study authors.


According to the sites for stimulation, the existing flight control strategy for insects are classified as flight muscle stimulation, sensory organ stimulation, and neuron stimulation. “The technique of neural electrical stimulation has the advantage of low power consumption, is the mainstream locomotion control strategy for insects with asynchronous flight muscles represented by honeybees. However, the effect of neural electrical stimulation on the control of honeybee steering behavior has not been fully verified,” said Zhao.


The newly published research optimized the pulse electrical signal parameters for steering flight control of honeybees based on unilateral optic lobe electrical stimulation. Furthermore, the authors verified the effectiveness of induced steering action by visualizing the rotational torque through a magnetic levitation experimental system. The electrical stimulation on the unilateral optic lobe was confirmed to be competent for steering control for the honeybees in various locomotion status.


The study authors explored the effective response behaviors of honeybee under electrical stimulation, as well as the influence of the duty cycle and frequency of the electrical signal on the successful rate of steering response. Through the optimization, the authors achieved an average successful rate of 87% for steering control of honeybees in immobilized status. The authors further confirmed that unilateral optic lobe electrical stimulation was effective to control the steering behavior of honeybees in crawling state, with a successful rate of 50%.


Looking forward, the team will further make efforts to improve the successful rate of honeybee locomotion control, and achieve the precise regulation of different locomotion parameters. “Another major challenge facing the development of cyborg honeybee is the confined load capacity, which limits the size and weight of the artificial stimulation module,” said the study authors. Therefore, the authors will devote themselves to developing the wireless locomotion regulation module that is more in line with the honeybee load characteristics.


“Small insects represented by honeybees are more ideal cyborg insect carriers,” said Zhao, explaining that honeybees possess higher concealment and athletic ability than those of large insects. “Actually, honeybees can reach a flight speed of 20-40 km/h, equivalent to the speed of a bus. As the carrier of cyborg insects, honeybees can better meet the requirement of military reconnaissance,” said Zhao. His research paper has fully confirmed the promising applicability of electrical stimulation applied to the unilateral optic lobe for steering control, and offers some reliable control parameters for an artificial flight regulation of honeybee, thus promoting the research of cyborg honeybee control strategy.


Authors of the paper include Li Yu, Jieliang Zhao, Zhiyun Ma, Wenzhong Wang, Shaoze Yan, Yue Jin, and Yu Fang.


Beijing Natural Science Foundation; the National Natural Science Foundation of China; the National Key R&D Program of China; and the Beijing Institute of Technology Research Fund Program for Young Scholars.


The paper, “Experimental Verification on Steering Flight of Honeybee by Electrical Stimulation

,” was published in the journal Cyborg and Bionic Systems on July 21, 2022, at DOI: https://doi.org/10.34133/2022/9895837



Authors: Li Yu,1 Jieliang Zhao,*1 Zhiyun Ma,1 Wenzhong Wang,*1 Shaoze Yan,2 Yue Jin,3 and Yu Fang3

Title of original paper: Experimental Verification on Steering Flight of Honeybee by Electrical Stimulation

Journal: Cyborg and Bionic Systems

DOI: 10.34133/2022/9895837



1School of Mechanical Engineering, Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing 100081, China

2 Division of Intelligent and Biomechanical Systems, State Key Laboratory of Tribology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

3 Institute of Apicultural Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, 100193, China


A brief introduction about yourself.

About Dr. Jieliang Zhao:

Jieliang Zhao is Professor of Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), and Teli Young Fellow of BIT. His research interests include Spacecraft dynamics, animal behavior and bionic machinery, and intelligent structures and drives. Up to now, he has published over 35 SCI papers in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, Applied Surface Science, Acta Astronautica, Journal of Bionic Engineering, Journal of Insect Science, and other journals with the h-index of 9 and total citations of over 261.

Personal Homepage: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6879-0537