Bees are a vital a part of human civilization. With out them, lots 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 elements we people topic them to, bees even have one other concern 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. To begin with, not like mattress bugs, that are comparatively small in comparison with people, Varroa mites are solely marginally smaller than bees themselves. Think about what it could 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 dwelling in a Varroa-infested hive.
To make issues worse, bees additionally haven’t any technique to defend themselves towards the mites, so the invaders are sometimes free to breed, unchecked, till beekeepers intervene. And even then, eliminating them is less complicated mentioned than finished.
As soon as the mites are hooked up, they’re practically unattainable to eradicate with out additionally destroying hives, putting contaminated colonies into quarantine, and delaying seasonal pollination routines. Pesticides may help, however along with being pricey and tough to manage, mites can generally change into proof against them.
All hope isn’t misplaced, although. Due to a intelligent new contraption on show at CES this 12 months, beekeepers would possibly quickly have a brand new weapon within the battle towards Varroa mites.
The Cocoon, because it’s known as, is a excessive tech beehive designed particularly to thwart Varroa. It does this by making the most of what’s maybe one of many mite’s solely weaknesses: warmth. Whereas bees can face up to comparatively excessive temperatures (seemingly 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 take advantage of 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 honest, this isn’t the primary sizzling hive design we’ve ever laid eyes on, however not like earlier takes on this concept, the Cocoon additionally has a couple of extra high-tech tips up its sleeve. It will possibly additionally cool the hive throughout excessively sizzling summer time months, monitor hive exercise, and even sound an alarm if any individual tries to steal the hive — which is seemingly one thing that’s more and more widespread today.
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 seemingly 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 lowering bee losses.
For now although, the Cocoon hive solely exists in prototype kind. Earlier than anyone can purchase it and earlier than it will possibly have any impression on the world’s ongoing bee disaster, its creators have to safe funding for mass manufacturing.
Firm representatives we spoke to at CES hinted crowdfunding marketing campaign is likely to be within the works for later this 12 months, so preserve an eye fixed out on Kickstarter and Indiegogo as we transfer deeper into 2019.