What’s with kids who develop tools to attack mites and save bees? A few weeks ago, I wrote about a group of Spanish youngsters on their way to Australia to compete in an international meet with their invention that may comb varroa off the backs of honey bees as they enter and leave hives. It’s 3-D printed and has a brilliant design. Today, I find a bunch of American kids (in Ann Arbor, Michigan) who have a patent-pending device that can slip into a box of bees and detect mites. I’m thinking that it’s some sort of laser-carrying mini-robot, but the kids aren’t saying.
Varroa mite detection is the essential first step in any responsible mite-control program. One of the most reliable methods of mite detection involves grabbing 300 bees, drowning them in alcohol (or winter antifreeze), shaking the dead bees for a long while, then counting the displaced mites. Less murderous methods include powdered/icing sugar rolls and sticky boards. Those also have drawbacks – the former is less accurate, the latter more expensive and time-consuming. But counting is important. Without knowing the mite count, the beekeeper may ignorantly (but blissfully) watch her bees die of mite-vectored viruses or may medicate when treatments aren’t needed, thus engaging in weapon-resistant mite farming.
If these kids have something that can quickly, easily, cheaply, and accurately count mites, they have invented a better mite trap. The kids haven’t divulged details about their almost patented system, but the president of the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association field tested it and says it works.
Winning their local competition, the Ann Arbor middle school students team is among just 20 groups chosen from around the world who have earned a trip to Washington, D.C., next month to compete for the FIRST LEGO League “Global Innovation Award”.
Congratulations to the rookie robotics team for inventing their BeeAlert+. The team, called Titanium Beasts, is made up of sixth-graders Anjalika Dandamudi, Arjun Bharadwaj, Ashmit Deb, Bavani Vijay, Ryan Wang, Sakthi Vijay, Ganesh Palaniappan and Varsha Reddy, and third-grader Arvind Bharadwaj.
With the Spanish kids’ mite catcher and now the American kids’ mite detector, it’s reassuring that the next generation may be able to fix the problems that my older generation have been battling. Thanks, kids.
A recent duel of sorts between Randy “Alcohol wash” Oliver and Dr. Meghan “Sugar roll” Milbrath produced identical measurements for each method. The critical thing most sugar-rollers forget is to simply let the jar sit for two minutes after rolling and before shaking out the mites. It is during that time that the mites fall off the bees. With that wait the sugar roll is as accurate as the alcohol wash.
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Thanks. Looks like the bees and the beekeeper would prefer a nice roll in powdered sugar instead of drowning in alcohol (though I’ve met beekeepers who tried to drown in alcohol). Even the alcohol wash needs a lot of shaking time to be accurate.
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