Can insects be spares?

Take the caterpillar. At some point, she begins to remake herself into a butterfly. The question is simple: is it possible to give her synthetic components for assembly that will make it possible to obtain a cyborg insect? The answer is yes, you can. And Michelle Maharbiz did it.

When this scientist from Berkeley created the first cyborg beetle, the military immediately came to him (DARPA) and asked if he was going to kill people, plus what would happen if his beetle escaped and began to multiply frantically.

Maharbiz explained that he does not kill people, does not plan to do dangerous insects (yet), and is not afraid of reproduction, because the cyborg does not transmit instructions for its assembly during sex. He explained to animal rights activists that he did not torment beetles, and there were no complaints from them about ill-treatment. True, he is now just considering the ethical aspects of using insects as components for electronics, but this is the tenth thing.

Media selection

Maharbiz took the beetles as a basis. The choice is quite interesting: the fact is that the biological design of the beetle is such that it contains something like a battery pack and can carry 20% more of its weight. That is, the beetle has a reserve for upgrades and features, plus a battery that feeds it for a long time and opens up some freedom of use.

Management technology

In simple terms, beetles are controlled through certain resonant frequencies. Different events with muscles cause different stimulation of the resonance of the carapace, which, in turn, activates the actions of other specific muscle groups. By controlling the resonance, you can give commands to the bug.

Maharbiz took and inserted into the beetle optical stimulants in the brain and electrical stimulators in a pair of basic muscles. The first type of interaction is working with the brain: start and end vibrations. The second type is the stimulation of the basal muscle on each side for turns. Roughly speaking, when this muscle of a beetle strains, the beetle fully understands that it has a turn – and begins to do so. Something like an interrupt system.

Later, the system was transformed into a micro-antenna, a microcontroller that has a transmitter-receiver and a small microphone in order to listen to vibrations to synchronize the wings (the beetle flies in a very complex pattern, so this is extremely important). Wii was connected as a remote control – and began to play as a bug.

The first thing that turned out is that there is someplace in the beetle’s brain that gives a 98% chance of the correct execution of the command to “start” and “stop” the beetle. Depending on the signal, the beetle biosystems adapt to the flight position, for example, and fall into a cycle where they cannot stop until the signal stops. It so happened to learn how to control a beetle through two channels: “flew-landed” and “turn right – turn left”.

Given that there are beetles that can carry 7-9 grams of payload, it is clear why at about that moment the military was vividly interested in Maharbiz and biology in general.


It’s clear that the bug, even upgraded to the proud title of the cyborg, is not a robot, so it’s impossible to calibrate the system. Control errors vary from insect to insect: the fact is that each cyborg has its own biological balancing system, plus its own nervous system, which has been built for generations to respond to different impulses from the outside world. Beetles are corny different, therefore, without an intermediate link in the control chain acting as a synchronizer-calibrator, the same reaction will not work.

Another problem stems from the same nervous system. Management is still low level, that is, it affects the basic levels of impact. In the process of fulfilling a responsible mission, a cyborg may become interested in a flower, a “bug of the opposite sex” or something else interesting and important – and this will immediately ruin the priority system, or simply cause extraneous activity. In the end, no one explained the bug about scientists and the Pentagon, so he tries to live somehow himself.