In 2012, Will MacHugh was strolling through a country fair in California when he discovered a display about beekeeping, a subject about which he knew nothing whatsoever. As president of Eltopia Communications, a service provider for wireless operators in the U.S. Northwest, he is concerned with putting together cellular networks. But the idea of helping beekeepers solve their problems captivated him, and he went back to Oregon with his head full of ideas.
One of the biggest problems facing apiarists are mites: tiny arthropods that live as parasites on plants, animals and yes, bees. Previously, the only way beekeepers could combat mites was by placing their beehives in an oven and literally toasting them. MacHugh and his team decided to attack the problem from another angle, namely from the inside out. They created a heater element that they coated with wax and which looks exactly like the normal frame in a beehive.
The solution, which they named “MiteNot”, monitors the temperature in the beehive and constantly adjusts it to a setting that kills the mites but keeps the brood comb healthy. Sensors count the number of mites going in and out of the hive, so the system only runs when the parasite level gets high enough to be worrying.
MacHugh has already sold his first production run of MiteNot installations, and he thinks the market will be huge. There are more than 2 million commercial beehives in the United States alone. A single unit is priced to be substantially cheaper than a pesticide-based solution which apiarists use today. “Success is sweet”, MacHugh says.