Bees are a necessary a part of human civilization. With out them, a lot of our crops wouldn’t get the pollination they should develop, and we’d have a a lot more durable time feeding the world’s rising inhabitants. However bees have an issue. A number of issues, in reality. Along with all of the pesticides and inbreeding and different stress components we people topic them to, bees even have one other difficulty to take care of: parasitic mites.
Varroa Destructor mites, as they’re known as, are to bees what mattress bugs are to people — however method worse. Initially, in contrast to mattress bugs, that are comparatively small in comparison with people, Varroa mites are solely marginally smaller than bees themselves. Think about what it will be wish to have a half dozen grapefruit-sized parasites clinging to you, sucking your fats cells, and transferring RNA viruses into your physique that may trigger genetic deformities. That’s what it’s wish to be a bee residing in a Varroa-infested hive.
To make issues worse, bees additionally don’t have any option to defend themselves in opposition to the mites, so the invaders are sometimes free to breed, unchecked, till beekeepers intervene. And even then, eliminating them is less complicated mentioned than carried out.
As soon as the mites are hooked up, they’re practically inconceivable to eradicate with out additionally destroying hives, inserting contaminated colonies into quarantine, and delaying seasonal pollination routines. Pesticides might help, however along with being pricey and difficult to manage, mites can generally change into immune to them.
All hope will not be misplaced, although. Due to a intelligent new contraption on show at CES this yr, beekeepers may quickly have a brand new weapon within the combat in opposition to Varroa mites.
The Cocoon, because it’s known as, is a excessive tech beehive designed particularly to thwart Varroa. It does this by benefiting from what’s maybe one of many mite’s solely weaknesses: warmth. Whereas bees can stand up to comparatively excessive temperatures (probably an evolutionary necessity for surviving in hotter areas of the world), Varroa mites will die if subjected to temps above 108 levels Fahrenheit (42C) for a couple of hours.
To use this vulnerability, the Cocoon hive makes use of a top-mounted photo voltaic panel to energy a heating system that progressively brings the hive’s inside temperature as much as a balmy 108 levels — thereby murdering the invading mites en masse. It’s apparently fairly efficient, and eliminates the necessity for beekeepers to spray their swarms with harsh pesticides.
To be truthful, this isn’t the primary sizzling hive design we’ve ever laid eyes on, however in contrast to earlier takes on this concept, the Cocoon additionally has a couple of extra high-tech methods up its sleeve. It might additionally cool the hive throughout excessively sizzling summer time months, monitor hive exercise, and even sound an alarm if any person tries to steal the hive — which is outwardly one thing that’s more and more frequent as of late.
The one draw back, in fact, is that these high-tech hives don’t come low cost. In line with Cocoon’s creators, the hives will retail for someplace round $950 apiece when (and if) they hit the market in late 2019. That exorbitant price ticket will probably be a turn-off for industrial beekeepers, however the gadget may save them cash in the long term by eliminating the necessity for Varroa-specific pesticides, and in addition by decreasing bee losses.
For now although, the Cocoon hive solely exists in prototype type. Earlier than anyone can purchase it and earlier than it will possibly have any affect on the world’s ongoing bee disaster, its creators must safe funding for mass manufacturing.
Firm representatives we spoke to at CES hinted that a crowdfunding marketing campaign is likely to be within the works for later this yr, so hold an eye fixed out on Kickstarter and Indiegogo as we transfer deeper into 2019.