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  1. #1
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    Default Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    I have recently applied for a patent on a new method of protecting beehives from SHB. It uses a robber screen with powered electrodes around the outer edges. A protective cover provides a 1/8 inch gap over the electrodes, this keeps bees and people from touching the electrodes, but small hive beetles have easy access to them. The actual power used is about 1/10th that required to trip a GFI circuit breaker, so there is minimal risk to humans who might accidentally get shocked.

    A small hive beetle is drawn to the robber screen by the hive odors. It then tries to find access to the hive and starts walking around on the screen. When it reaches the edge of the screen, it crosses onto the electrodes and drops to the ground, or alternatively into a collection box in under the robber screen from which it cannot escape. The goal is to try to reduce the number of SHB entering a hive by at least 90%.

    The patent application also includes placing vertical electrifiers within a beehive, so that beetles crossing over them fall to the bottom of the hive. The beetles can then remove them. Tentatively, the best place for this would be in the inner cover; the hive beetles run into what they think is a crack and WHAM! they are shocked to find that this is not a normal crack. They then fall to the bottom. The only maintenance would be to occasionally open the top cover and slide a knife through the gap to remove any propolis, the inner cover itself would not need to be removed.

    This is the theory. I am not a beekeeper, I am a retired electronics and mechanical design engineer with over 40 years of professional industrial design experience, with a B.S. in physics from UCLA. I know a beekeeper who asked if I could figure out some kind of solution to the SHB problem. This is the result of those efforts.

    I live near Dallas, Texas. Hive beetles do not seem to be a serious problem in this area. In the Dallas area, we get reasonably cold during the winter and have hot, dry summers, and a black soil they do not seem to like. They are also currently dormant where my friend lives, which is near Houston, Texas and he has serious SHB problems in late Summer.

    I have not tested this, because I have just finished and submitted the patent application and the beetles are dormant here. Now that the patent work is finished and I can talk freely about what I want to do; I need help in figuring out if and how to proceed.

    A question: Does anyone on this list and reading it near the time of posting live in an area where the SHB are currently active that would be willing to work with me in testing some equipment? It would be great to test some prototypes before summer hits.

    I am also interested in feedback. I have not even priced what it would cost, although the following is a rough estimate. The power supply, which is solar/battery operated, could run perhaps $75 and should be able to electrify at least half a dozen hives placed near each other, perhaps more. This price could drop if there is enough demand to get high volume production. The electrodes, wires, and connectors should be about $10 apiece for those who want to build their own robber screen; hopefully less than $30 if the robber screen is sold already assembled. That would be perhaps about $25 a hive for six hives placed near each other and where a person build his own robber screen. The electrodes for electrifying an inner cover would be a little less than this, so I think it would be a little over $30 to use both an electrified robber screen and an electrified inner cover for a person doing the work himself. The gap in the inner cover would run the entire length of the hive body parallel with the frames. In theory, this would keep most of the SHB out of the hive and then aggressively treat those that do get in it.

    I have several other projects I am working on, including some patents for a non-chemical tawny crazy ant treatment, and want to find out if there is enough interest in this to pursue the proposed SHB treatment or if I should go on to something else.

    Tim Stout, Greenville, TX

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    One possible problem to consider.Bees are sensitive to electrical fields.Colonies placed near high tension lines tend to produce erratic comb.
    54+ years 30 colonies Treat using Hopguard and essential oils
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    High voltage lines are very high voltage. Check out YouTube for "fluorescent lights under transmission lines." There is enough voltage under a transmission line to light up a fluorescent bulb, although dimly. Instead of 400,000 volts, I expect to use about 300 volts, with low amps and very short duration once discharge starts. Also, the electric field is pretty much contained within the gap between the electrodes. Under transmission lines, there is a strong field between the ground and the wires. For instance, a lineman or a bird can touch a live 400,000 volt line if he is perfectly insulated. However, if he is grounded, he will be electrocuted before he can touch it, the spark will jump out to him. There is very little in common between the magnitude of electrical field effects of high voltage lines and a beetle zapper.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Actually, that's right up my alley.

    I'm a beginner beekeeper, but with a strong desire to do some bee science, and with a very strong background it this sort of testing. PM me and I'll direct you to my consulting website.

    Since we are just starting out with our hives and our apiary will be isolated, I'm dearly hoping we won't have small hive beetles any time soon. Up here in Virginia and West Virginia we're eagerly waiting for spring, and the hives are asleep. But I know there is no shortage of SHB and have seen them in a friend's hive. I'm sure I'd be able to hook up with someone in our club on which I could test your ideas.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    From what I have read, SHB are very sensitive to honey/hive odors. If the wind is right, they will probably find you before you find them. They can travel many miles a day.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    No doubt, but since our two hives are brand-new, empty, and in the garage, it would be wrong to guarantee a ready supply of victims, especially as you would prefer someone already cussing an active infestation and looking for ways to do them harm.

    What I can offer with certainty is experience in product testing, and an interest in applying this to bees. Some friends of mine and I got a provisional patent last year (on something totally unrelated), and I got to do the testing on it. Also, our bee club has participated in bee health research under the SARE program, so I have no doubt I could find among them some research-minded individuals with a strong dislike for SHB.

    Of course, people with a strong dislike for SHB are never hard to find.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Your idea looks promising. Test it and then modify. I considered modifying a hand held electric mosquito zapper for placement inside a hive. If it lights up mosquitoes it would certainly light up a hive beetle. My hesitancy is that sometimes the mosquito literally fries when it gets stuck between the positive and negative wires producing some smoke. It is powered by aa batteries. I'm sure in some configurations beetles could be zapped w/o them frying. Maybe I'll work on it this summer.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Actually, I use the term "zap" rather loosely. Most insect zappers apply several thousand volts and try to explode the insects. It kills them, but is messy. Any disease bacteria or viruses the insect is infected with is then spread by the goo they leave. That is why it is not recommended to have fly zappers where food is being prepared. By contrast, my intent is to use the lowest voltage possible. I am more interested in stunning the beetles for a minute or two than directly killing them to avoid the messy. gooey explosion problem. If they fall within the hive and are motionless for a minute or two, the bees should have a heyday with them. I saw a YouTube video of a dead small hive beetle that had had its legs bitten off by bees. I do not imagine it would take bees very long to "de-leg" a stunned beetle. Then, it is completely at the mercy of the bees. Even if it flies around some, it will eventually get tired and fall to the bottom of the hive. Then it is powerless to resist the bees. Bees are capable of gnawing through wood when motivated. I expect a stationary beetle would motivate them to focus on it and do their thing.

    Along the same token, beetles stunned on a robber screen would fall to the ground or in a collector below the robber screen. The expectation is that the collector could be one way, beetles couldn't get out once they get in. There are lots of ways to accomplish this, including placing electrodes at the exit pathway. Or, if they drop to the ground and after a few minutes fly back to the robber screen, they will get zapped again. Electrocution is frequently caused by heat damage instead of chemical. The legs of a hive beetle are very thin, they should heat first. By the time a beetle stunned enough to drop, I am hopeful that there will be some form of permanent damage to its legs. Once it is permanently unable to crawl, it should no longer be threat to a hive, just ant food. This is all to be tested.

    I am an electronics design engineer with over twenty years of industrial design experience. Designing my own circuits is not a big deal for me. I am not above using an existing commercial design if it meets the needs and is cheap enough, but usually it is just as easy and cheaper to design something from scratch as to find something already made that works the way I want it to.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    1. You can buy lady bugs by the box full for test subjects. They may be a little larger than SHB but would work for tests. A voltage control on the test jig could allow adjustment to damage the bug without frying. Once you have the correct voltage then design your unit.

    2. A "U" shaped opening would allow the zapped bug to fall out, clearing the path way. Actually a cylinder forcing the bug to crawl up to get in should be better.

    3. An opening at the top of the may be best. Injured bugs would fall into the hive to be removed by the bees. Warm beehive air, fragrance laden rising thru the opening would attract the bugs.

    Fun to think about, hope you can do something with it.
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Julysun,

    I REALLY like your idea of getting some lady bugs. I will probably need to experiment with only a few to find out what I need to know. I currently have a 26 month old grandson living with me who will be happy to get all of the left over ones. I found a place on E-bay that sells them even now quite inexpensively; I should have them by the middle of next week.

    The current approach for internal treatment of a hive is to place vertically-oriented zappers in a thin slot of the inner cover. The outer edge of the slot is flush with the inside wall of the hive body immediately below it. SHB get chased into the slot by bees, get zapped until dead or stunned, then fall to the bottom of the hive where the bees do their work. Gravity pulls the beetles out of the slot. If the bees propolyze the slot, a beek can remove the propolis with his hive tool from the outer cover; only the outer cover needs to be removed--the slot goes all of the way through. This all described in the pending patent documentation.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    I forgot to add one key advantage to this proposed approach:

    NO MORE OIL.

    The potential advantage of this approach is that it requires no oil or other toxic substances to kill the SHB. It does not require a hive to be opened for SHB maintenance. If a hive beetle crawls up a hive body wall straight from the bottom to the top on either of the long wall sides, it will eventually reach the long wall slot and go straight into the electrifier.

    If you are tired of the expense, time, and disturbance to the bees of opening up a hive for an oil change, this could well be a desirable alternative.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Quote Originally Posted by TimStout View Post
    A question: Does anyone on this list and reading it near the time of posting live in an area where the SHB are currently active that would be willing to work with me in testing some equipment? It would be great to test some prototypes before summer hits.
    SHB are a way of life in South Carolina. Tim, what w/b involved in testing your equipment?
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    This is a target schedule:

    1. February 14. Testing with lady bugs done. At least one, maybe two prototypes built and sent to the testers, to arrive by Monday 2/17. The prototype will include a collection trap under the robber screen.

    2. February 21. After a few days testing in an area with an active infestation, there should be SHB in the collection trap. I would like video documentation of what is in the trap. Cell phone video would be adequate if you don't have shaky hands. If the results are obviously good, then I proceed to Kickstarter. Otherwise, I work out the bugs.

    3. February 28. An active Kickstarter project on www.kickstarter.com . This is dependent upon good video results. Kickstarter is a way of raising funds for initial sales of prototype projects to people who understand the risks and want to work with someone on product development. If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, it might be worth glancing at even now. This would be a two-week project. If there is enough interest to reach target funds, then the project is funded. If the goal is not reached, it dies.

    4. March 28. I receive kickstarter funds.

    5. April 28, all product is delivered.

    How we proceed from there is dependent on the level of interest.

    So, with this schedule in mind, I need one or two people who realistically should be able to detect if the robber screen works during the period about a week and a half from now. This means that there is a realistic likelihood that the SHB will be attempting to enter their hives during this time frame.

    Long term, A beekeeper will have a choice of utility power or solar power for his hives. The greatest expense is in the electrical equipment and utility power is cheaper than photocells and batteries. However, for the initial tests, it would be preferred to have someone that has hives near their house or other utility outlet. Thus, I will be testing out the solar design at home with lady bugs while the beehive robber screen and inner trap is being tested in parallel with utility power. If a person wants to help but utility power is not available, a 12 volt car battery could serve as a temporary power supply as well, because the utility power would be converted to 12 volts and then boosted either to 120 or 220 volts AC by another converter; this is a safety feature. Raw, unregulated utility power does NOT get applied to the hive. If extension cords are used between a wall outlet and hives, the power is converted to 12 volts at the outlet, then fed into the extension cords with an adapter, then at the hive boosted to the appropriate voltage with limited current. This is all for safety.

    1. A person would need to commit to supply either 12 volt battery power or AC power to their hives, including required extension cords. I would supply the actual equipment to be tested, from robber screens to an electrified inner cover to the electric conversion source for the electrifiers.

    2. My design circuitry includes a method of removing power to shorted terminals on the robber screen during rain. This circuit will not be available for testing with the original equipment; that is something I will be testing at home. Therefore, a test person needs to insure that the robber screen is not activated when it might be raining.

    3. A willingness to check on the test hive on a daily basis and give a report to me for the first week or so. The report should include pictures of what is in the trap, even if it is nothing. For Kickstarter purposes, Video is better than Still. You do not need to be in the picture, but, if video, a commentary of what you are seeing would help. I can voice over what you are saying for a smoother presentation if appropriate.

    4. Once the Kickstarter project is going, then I would like some continued feedback on results for a little while, once a week should be adequate.

    5. A person may keep whatever I send him as a payment for his help. If the Kickstarter project is funded, I will also include a solar operated power controller to use with his equipment at a later date.

    Hope this help get a feel for what I am trying to do. The targets are lofty and aggressive, but that is how things get done.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Cool, a Kickstarter project! They funded a high speed video camera recently that I might like to have once it is in production. I couldn't quite afford the initial investment but it was not TOO far off.

    Yeah, I'm too far north and couldn't guarantee little black victims, but otherwise I would offer. I've got the video requirement nailed seven ways to Sunday, and both 12V and AC power covered (the house has both grid and 12V solar power).

    Keep us up with this. If it gets Kickstarter support, maybe some of us would like to chip in. And for those of you who have not heard of it, this is a crowdsourcing system whereby people with a need for a new gadget chip in to fund it, often to receive one of the first units.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    I think it will not be necessary to follow your efforts. If you are successful it will be all over this site! But just to be safe, please, put me on the list to be notified!
    Julysun elevation 23 feet. 4 Hives, 2 years.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Status update: I have a couple of people with active hive beetles ready to do some testing. The parts for the electronics should be here on Tuesday, hopefully the equipment should be installed on some hives in about a week or so. It should not take very long to find out if the shock treatment is keeping beetles out of the test hives, so I am hoping that in about two weeks there will be something to report.

    Since hive beetles have been dormant where I live, I did some tests zapping lady bugs. 110 VAC is not enough to kill a ladybug, but it is enough to stun one for five or ten minutes. The lady bugs are bigger than the hive beetles, so 110 VAC should be adequate for the beetles as well. A beetle stunned on a robber screen will fall into a one-way trap mounted below it. A beetle stunned on the inside of the hive and lying on the hive floor for five or ten minutes will be gnawed at by the bees; if bees can chew through wood, they should be able to kill a hive beetle lying around and not defending itself. So, 110 VAC should be enough to do the job. Things are looking good so far.
    Last edited by TimStout; 02-15-2014 at 08:24 AM.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    I've thought about using a high voltage on SHB's also. Now you've made think of an ideal zapping electrode- a printed circuit board extender like what HP used to make plug-in boards servicable. These extenders boards come in anywhere from 5 contacts per side up to 50 or more; lots of parallel traces often gold plated. If every other trace is at 300v and the other traces at ground, you will have an excellent contact surface for your purposes.

    I suspect that the surface resistance of the SHB's back/wings would be too high to conduct at 300v; that's why I would recommend a surface that zaps as the walk on top of the electrode.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Actually, the prototypes will use circuit boards for the beetles to walk on, much as you suggested. I initially thought about ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold) for corrosion resistance, but it appears that IT (immersion tin) provides just as effective corrosion resistance at a fraction of the cost. Surprisingly, the gold is for ease of soldering, not corrosion resistance. To keep the costs down, circuit board manufactures use such a thin layer of gold that it is too porous to provide significant corrosion resistance. It is the underlying nickel that provides most of the protection. A thick layer of tin provides effective protection cheaper than thin layers of nickel or gold. Actually, long term it appears that a conductive polymer will be more effective than a circuit board.

    The current approach is to have two electrodes spaced closely together around the perimeter of the robber screen, one inside the other, such that a hive beetle cannot walk past them without getting shocked. Almost instantly ladybugs fall off the electrodes and are powerless to move any further; I assume the same will hold true of hive beetles. If the angle is right while I am watching them, I have actually seen a brief spark when they walk onto the second electrode. This does not kill them, but paralyzes them for 5 or 10 minutes and they never seem to be able to move as quickly after being zapped--it appears permanent damage was done. It is desirable to keep the voltage as low as possible for two reasons: 1. safety. and 2. it costs less money to build the conversion circuitry, so it is cheaper.

    All of these things are discussed in my patent application.

    Incidentally, I found that if I buy my solar array directly from China, I can save a lot of money. This means cheaper sales cost. I am hopeful that the power units expected price will now be closer to $50 than the $75 I originally thought. One power unit is expected to be able to power six hives if they are reasonably close together.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Tim

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete O View Post
    I've thought about using a high voltage on SHB's also. Now you've made [me] think of an ideal zapping electrode- a printed circuit board extender like what HP used to make plug-in boards servicable. These extenders boards come in anywhere from 5 contacts per side up to 50 or more; lots of parallel traces often gold plated. If every other trace is at 300v and the other traces at ground, you will have an excellent contact surface for your purposes.

    I suspect that the surface resistance of the SHB's back/wings would be too high to conduct at 300v; that's why I would recommend a surface that zaps as the walk on top of the electrode.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Yeah, for big Chinese PV panels in the 300 W range they're under a dollar a watt, and shipping the panels costs as much as buying them if you just buy a couple. But US manufacturers are crying foul, suspecting market subsidies.

    Circuit board manufacturers are getting away from heavy gold for another reason ... it can mix with solder to make cruddy solder joints. But watch our for tin in your application, as it tends to form "whiskers" that may short the system out. It may not be too much trouble as the boards are likely to need an occasional scrub anyway.

    Inverters have gotten so cheap, don't discount using them if you need to.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Selectively Zapping Small Hive Beetles for Hive Protection

    Hi Phoebe,

    I really do not like buying from China. For many years my wife and I were holdouts, not buying anything from China if there was any reasonable US-made alternative. Eventually, almost everything was coming from China and we were ineffective against stemming the tide. We just buy what is available now. The solution has to be at a high political level.

    In the meantime, my biggest concern about electrifying a hive for SHB protection is the cost. I am doing everything I can think of to get the costs down. If that means buying a photocell from China, I will. If there is something made here that is reasonably close in price, I will immediately switch to it.

    I am aware of the tin whisker problem. A number of companies who sell tin for immersion tin claim that they have additives which reduce this risk. Alternatively, a 300 volt puff should make them disappear. I remember testing a prototype circuit board I had designed for a computer company and it had an internal short. The short made the board useless and we were desperate to get it to work while a replacement was fabricated.

    I fastened one side of a car battery to one of the wires and the other to the other. The short vaporized and we were able to use it. Many times, if not the majority, this only blows a hole in the board--if it is buried deep so the heat buildup cannot escape and the short is of a large area. In this case, we were lucky.

    In our situation, thin whiskers on an outside surface would probably be burned off by our normal operating voltage. At any rate, a higher amperage connection would do it without risk of blowing a hole in the board.

    There are some conductive polymers I would like to experiment with; they do not grow whiskers. But, at this moment I do not believe whiskers to be a problem big enough to slow down the project to check them out.

    I will be using commercial inverters for the prototypes. I actually at this moment am waiting on a reply from a particular Chinese vendor of inverters for the cost of 100 units. So, I am not above using them if they are priced right and can solve the problem. My main concern is shorts caused by rain on the robber screen electrifiers. I have not had a chance to test the behavior of the commercial units under rain conditions. If I design the circuit, I will know exactly what I am getting. The final choice will be based on 1. Does it meet all of the requirements. If it doesn't, it is excluded. Then, of those remaining the question becomes which is cheapest.


    Quote Originally Posted by Phoebee View Post
    Yeah, for big Chinese PV panels in the 300 W range they're under a dollar a watt, and shipping the panels costs as much as buying them if you just buy a couple. But US manufacturers are crying foul, suspecting market subsidies.

    Circuit board manufacturers are getting away from heavy gold for another reason ... it can mix with solder to make cruddy solder joints. But watch our for tin in your application, as it tends to form "whiskers" that may short the system out. It may not be too much trouble as the boards are likely to need an occasional scrub anyway.

    Inverters have gotten so cheap, don't discount using them if you need to.

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