I am a skeptic when it comes to ‘miracle’ cures to fight varroa. I think that the various expensive heat/sauna systems are a waste of time and money. A lot of natural treatments (icing/powdered sugar; essential oils; screened bottoms) are marginally helpful – they won’t keep a hive alive, but they might delay the funeral. When I heard about a system developed by some youngsters in Spain, I was not quick to don my credulity cloak. I’m not sold on their invention, but I won’t disparage it outright.
Here’s the story. A group of young scientists have engineered a 7-mm-wide beehive entrance reducer outfitted with tiny brushes. As bees return to their hive, they maneuver through the little doorway while brushes rub varroa mites off their backs. Mites are removed outside the hive. The student-scientists used a 3d printer to make the little plastic entrances. The youths, aged 14 to 16, live in Valencia, Spain. This summer, their device will compete at the FIRST LEGO Asia Pacific Open in Sydney, Australia. Presently, a crowd-funding campaign is raising the money to take them from Europe to Australia to participate.
Will it work? Perhaps. I’m sure that you can think of reasons it won’t. Even if some varroa are scraped off, it only takes one lucky mite to colonize a hive. Mites which do fall off could later crawl into the hive – they live a few days without a bee host and they are mobile. A side issue is the restricted entrance which reduces air flow and forager traffic. On the other hand, the inventors point out that their narrow entrance blocks wasps. Unchecked, wasps destroy colonies so this is a welcome side-benefit. Concerns about air flow and traffic control issues might be alleviated if beekeepers use a large number of the tiny doors on each hive.
The idea is cheap and it might reduce mites. I don’t think it will save honey bees from succumbing to varroa, but it could be one more weapon in the beekeeper’s toolkit. What do you think?