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How the Internet of Things Could Save the Bees

Dan Tynan
Yahoo Tech

Photo: Eltopia

It’s a concept that’s both simple and terrifying. For years, scientists have known that honeybees are disappearing at an alarming rate. Fewer honeybees means less pollination, which could lead to a rapid drop in food supplies. If the bee die-off continues, the entire human race will be threatened. We need bees.

Fortunately, researchers at the University of Minnesota may have come up with an Internet of Things device that could help prevent the bee-pocalypse.

One theory behind the massive bee collapse involves the Varroa destructor mite, a tiny, vampirelike parasite that lives inside honeybee colonies and literally sucks the life out of them, infecting them with a virus that contributes to colony collapse disorder.

In the left corner, the hardworking and industrious honeybee; in the right, the much smaller parasite, Varroa destructor mite. (Photos via Wikimedia, “Apis mellifera Tanzania” by Muhammad Mahdi Karim.)

The Eltopia MiteNot can wipe out the mites using a circuit board camouflaged to blend in with a traditional honeycomb frame made from cornstarch wax and other renewable materials. Beekeepers install one MiteNot frame inside the hive; the board’s embedded sensors detect temperature fluctuations and other environmental data, then transmit it via a 3G cellular connection to Eltopia’s cloud-based BeeSafe application. 

Based on sensor data, BeeSafe can detect the optimal moment when female mites have laid their eggs, but before the male mites have fertilized them. It then sends a command back to the MiteNot frame to heat up just enough to sterilize the male mites without harming the bees.

When covered in wax, the frame with MiteNot installed becomes indistinguishable from any other part of the hive and can be reused as needed. Its great advantage is that it can fight the mites without the use of pesticides, which could also harm the bees.

The Eltopia MiteNot is still being tested, but it may be available as early as fall 2015. Hopefully we’ll all still bee around by then.

Send email and fresh honey to Dan Tynan: ModFamily1@yahoo.com.