An innovative new beehive design –launched via an Indiegogo campaign– might just be the solution we need to relieve, or even end, colony collapse disorder in bees. Abandoning chemicals and harnessing the power of Mother Nature herself, the Thermosolar Hive aims to target one of the honeybee’s worst enemies – Varroa destructor mites
Varroa destructor mites are just as devastating as they sound. Many experts claim the Varroa mite is the most significant factor in colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon which has caused honeybee populations to plummet across the globe.
The tiny parasites latch onto both bees and broods, and suck the living life out of them. Infected broods often mature with deformed or missing limbs and wings. Once the mites are attached, they’re nearly impossible to eradicate without also destroying hives, placing infected colonies into quarantine, and delaying seasonal pollination. The Varroa mites’ tendency to transfer from bee to bee and hive to hive makes containment even more complicated.
And while pesticides can often treat bees for Varroa mites, the chemicals come at a price. Not only do hives have to be shut down for keepers to administer the chemicals, but sometimes, mites can actually become resistant to the pesticides.
To circumvent these issues, the cleverly-designed Thermosolar Hive leverages the power of the sun to increase the heat in the hive to a temperature that bees can withstand but Varroa mites cannot. The hive’s cretor, Roman Linhart, also boasts that it won’t significantly interrupt pollination and won’t run the risk of mutating mites
Linhart told Digital Trends he was inspired to design the hive after noticing that a colony of bees above his local convenience store were unaffected by mites. Linhart studied the bees and found nothing unusual about them, except where their hive was located — under a tin roof.
“The idea hit me in a very hot summer day,” he said, “temperature has long been known to reliably kill the mites!” This heat makes it nearly impossible for mites to take up residence in the hive, and it steers them away without the help of any harsh pesticides.
After the epiphany, Linhart began a journey of trial and error. “Our work took so long because we have tested it in different areas like high mountains, lowlands, cities, or regions with very hot summer,” he said. One of the project’s biggest obstacles was finding a reliable supplier to craft quality hives. “Quality is crucial,” Linhart said. “Without high quality materials used and a most precise production, the hive cannot reach and maintain the temperature necessary for varroa elimination.” Linhart and his team have since found a hive supplier they’re pleased with.
But suppliers weren’t the only issue. Apparently, chemical companies and bee breeders weren’t overly enthusiastic about a hive design that might put them out of business. “There were some problems with company producing chemicals for varroa treatment and some with people who are trying to breed varroa-tolerant bees,” Linhart said. “They were not very happy to see that something like our hive can disrupt their business. But we got over it.”
The Thermosolar Hive only exists in prototype form at this point, but if its creators can raise $20,000 over the course of the next month, they’ll have enough to bring their design into production. Assuming that they hit that mark, and barring any hiccups in the manufacturing process, the creators expect to begin shipping to backers sometime around January or February of 2017.