Internet ends bees varroa virus pest

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A farmer checks honey combs. The internet can be used to tame varroa pests. Photo courtesy.

Apart from using the Internet in research, farmer can use this way of communication in controlling pests like bee varroa destructor mites by sending detector and action signals.

Varroa destructor mite can cause loses of between 44 per cent and 100 per cent if uncontrolled.

Domotele technologist Alfred Ahuta says sensors are placed in the hives. The sensors detect the invasion of the mites when the bees start ‘complaining’ by humming.

It is hard to examine the bees to identify the mites. But the sensors rely on the discomfort in the bees which stat humming upon realising the infestation, Ahuta said.

The sensor, which is connected by the internet to other devices, will trigger an action against the mites.

Various researches, especially in Japan have established that Varroa viruses do not survive in temperatures above 470C. A connected cable to a solar panel on the roof of the hive or another source of power automatically turns on installed heaters. The heaters start gradually warming the hive to about 470C.

A research by the Tufts University has established that mature been can withstand temperatures of up to 500C.

“Bees are known to survive in hot temperatures, where the virus cannot. Although young bees cannot survive beyond 350C, the adults will be cleansed off the virus for a new start. As the heat increases, the bees spread out. The pests in the honey combs are also killed,” he said.

More than 90 per cent of the mites are destroyed by the time the temperature reaches 450C. The sensor starts the reverse process of cooling the hive again by sending a signal to the switch turning off the heat source automatically.

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Varroa virus causes deformed wings in bees. The mites suck blood from the bees, and under heavy infestation, they can cause death of the entire colony or absconding for the survivors.

Deformed wings limit the mobility of the bee.  When the bees no longer fly out, the honey making process is hampered.

The body temperature of bees ranges between 330C and 350C. During cold and brooding seasons, heater bees beat their wings to increase the temperatures of the hive. The body temperature can rise to 440C at this time to counter the cold or cause hatching.

This process occurs with the intervention of anyone as the Internet of Things switches on and off the sensors and heaters.

Ahuta, who has worked in the US for a while, but is in Kenya, says farmers may not understand that bee hives are infested by the virus, causing migration or reduced harvests.