Machine created locally could help dying bee population nationwide

HUMMELSTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – According to the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association, one-third of the food we eat comes from insect-pollinated plants.

One small pollinator that plays a big role, the honey bee, is dying at an alarming rate.

Local students are now getting a buzz of national attention for a machine to help.

“It’s a really is a big problem. We can’t continue to live as we do as people without the bee population,” Lower Dauphin High School Senior Brandon Rossi said Wednesday.

A farmer at Strite’s Orchard, Matt Strite, says bees are important for their industry, but they’re facing a lot of issues right now.

Beekeeper Gary Carns agrees.

“In the Central PA Bee Club here in our capital area, the average loss was 75 percent of the colonies this year,” Carns said.

The major issues: colony collapse disorder and varroa mites.

“It will be born with viruses, born with no wings, which makes it totally worthless to the colony,” Carns said.

These small bees are a big deal; they pollinate a third of our food.

“Here at our farm, they pollinate pickles to apple butter, applesauce, pepper relish and more,” Strite said.

“Some of the crops don’t need the honey bee, but when they have it, the crop is much larger and much more plentiful,” Carns said.

Five Lower Dauphin students believe they can help.

“The hive can take care of mite problems by dusting in powdered sugar, which entices the bees to clean each other off and gets rid of the mites,” senior Nick Moosic said.

They built a robot called The Bee Keeper. The machine extracts honey and monitors the hive’s health and activity. It’s all connected to a phone app.

“It was part of the Phoenix Contact Nanoline competition,” senior Lucas McCanna said.

The students competed against 40 teams in February. After putting in 30 hours a year, they won.

“It was really nice to be able to win, validate a couple years worth of hard work,” their adviser, Miss Nancy Kiscadden, said.

Farmers and beekeepers say the machine has the potential to help millions.

The students say they hope to get this machine into beekeepers’ backyards someday, but that day may have to wait until after college when they have more money and time.

For now, the students are looking forward to their free trip to Disney, their prize for winning the national competition. They graduate high school in two weeks and leave for Disney three days later.

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