Lasers: a new method to control Varroa mites in honey bees?

Image of honey bees in grass.

Earlier this spring, the NY Farm Viability Institute awarded $41,000 to Combplex Inc., a Cornell University start-up that is testing the use of lasers to kill Varroa mites on honey bees as they enter their hive. “One of the most significant challenges faced by beekeepers is disease and colony loss caused by the Varroa mite and the viruses it transmits,” NYFVI states in a profile of 2019 FVI projects. “They have designed a device which uses optical recognition to identify the parasite on the bee’s body as it enters the hive. If it is present, the battery-powered device uses a high-powered laser to kill the mite.” The profile says the devices have been successful in the lab, and Combplex plans to trial the device in 150 commercial hives in New York state. According to the start-up’s website, Combplex began as an interdisciplinary research project in 2017 between two Cornell Ph.D. students.