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November 2008




Debugging your hive

Dr Garth Cambray

Karen Wassmer, a computer programmer by training, puts her skills to good use debugging beehives for the benefit of all.


The invention, as seen from above.

Karen Wassmer has invented a simple tool to assist beekeepers in the fight against the hive- destroying varroa mite - the so-called Varroa Mite Control Entrance (VMCE).

Varroa mites have been a global beekeeping problem for decades. The mite, originally a parasite of a smaller bee in Asia, jumped species to the European honeybee, and from there to the African honeybee. Both these bees have less immunity than their Asian counterparts, with the result that the varroa mite sucks the bees blood, weakening and destroying many hives. Beehives are important for the pollination of most of the foods we eat, so, anything which kills bees takes food out of some of our mouths, and anything which helps bees, puts food back in peoples mouths.

Karen is a retired computer programmer/analyst and has had a lifetime's experience gathering data and debugging it.  Varroa mites are controlled in a hive using chemicals which can kill close to 100% of the mites. The problem is that bees fly out of the hive, bump into other bees from non-medicated hives and varroa mites jump across, piggy backing their way into the clean hive reinfecting it. Karenís invention originally took a number of fine art brushes, which brushed each bee entering the hive, dislodging mites, and letting them fall through into a tray below thus reducing the number of mites entering, and exiting the hive.

Karen now has a US patent pending, and is negotiating with manufacturers to produce her invention, which will be a cost effective tool for beekeepers in the fight against varroa.











Karen Wassmer at work with one of her beehives.


Although the invention will not be of direct benefit to beekeepers in Africa, as bees here have evolved resistance to varroa, and would also stick the bristles together with propolis- African bees produce more of this sticky glue, the invention will help to improve beekeeping in the USA, Canada and Europe, where more and more people from Africa work as beekeeping assistants helping these regions produce food for export globally.

Inventions such as these highlight how major problems can be reduced by inventions made by people working on home budgets with simple tools-inspiring others to invent home solutions to our global problems.


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