This is the first in a series of articles on bees and the innovations arising around them.
Bees have been a universal feature of agriculture for thousands of years. By pollinating crops, they save us incredible amounts of labor, and allow us to easily grow plants that would otherwise be painstakingly tedious to manually pollinate. We have one major problem, however: the worldwide bee population is dropping at incredible rates, and there is no obvious solution.
Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which the worker bees of a colony entirely abandon a hive, is the main cause of the declining bee population. It’s an issue that is made even more difficult to reconcile by the fact that the causes are, in many cases, hard to pin down—pesticides, parasites, and pathogens, among other issues, can all cause CCD. However, screening for all these issues can be difficult, and so, CCD is hard to actively prevent.
Seven months ago, the campaign for a new beekeeping technology named “Flow” gained some traction, raising over twelve million dollars. The technology, based around modifying the traditional beehive with a pre-constructed set of combs that can be separated easily, could have some implications not only for beekeeping, but for the survival of bees in general.
Flow allows for beekeepers to save an enormous amount of time, and perhaps consequently a considerable amount of money, as well as incentivizing beekeepers to keep a larger population of bees. The technology works by allowing bees to construct their hive around a hexagonal frame. This frame can be quickly pulled apart with a crank, breaking the wax caps keeping it together and allowing the honey stored within to flow out, before being easily reset.
With so many causes, CCD seems like it will take some time to resolve, or at least dampen to a manageable point. Beekeeping provides an environment in which hives can be taken care of closely and kept away from factors that might induce the disorder. By making it easier to harvest honey, the main financial incentive for raising bees, beekeepers could be incentivized by this technology to keep a large enough population of bees to sustain some of the global bee population. While their numbers might dwindle, an apiculture industry will make sure that the species will never become extinct, and that is the ultimate concern of high CCD rates.
Categories: Science & Tech