Picture from thermosolarhive.com

Picture from thermosolarhive.com

The fundraising effort for this new hive technology is not flooding the internet as the FlowHive did, perhaps because there is no dramatic visual like the infamous pancake video. Just claims of dead varroa and live bees without chemicals. Or perhaps the internet does not wish to rouse those grouchy, skeptical beekeepers again?

The hive is basically an insulated version of the familiar vertical hive of stacking, frame-holding boxes with solar heating built in. When treatment is required, the beekeeper removes the outer cover exposing a "thermosolar ceiling" to the sun. When the built-in thermometer indicates 117°F(47°C) the cover is restored and this elevated temperature is maintained, causing mites to fall off and die while not harming bees or brood. Such is the claim anyway. What is our take?

  • It is true that bees tolerate elevated temperatures much better than varroa mites and so hive heating treatments have been attempted before, usually requiring the hive body or some frames to be moved to an incubator and back. The promise of treating in situ is appealing.

  • This hive has the advantage of using solar radiation for the heating so no batteries to charge, no fuel tanks to fill, and nothing to transport to the hives.

  • This hive also has the disadvantage of using solar radiation for the heating so the time required to reach therapeutic temperature is unpredictable. In our area sunlight is a tremendously variable resource.

  • There seems a bit of marketing with avarice aforethought being perpetrated as they list all the nasty miticides not needed. Better chemicals are more commonly used these days. Still this uses none.

  • They also list in passing a number of bee diseases (including European and American foulbrood) implying that this hive prevents or treats all those as well. There seems little reason to expect this.2016-06-24 Per a reply from one of the developers this was a misunderstanding on our part and the diseases were listed without intention to imply efficacy against them but merely to indicate how many problems beset honeybees.

  • Naturally the beeks of the internet are already bickering over whether the recommended temperatures may harm brood or melt wax or weaken drone sperm. Just as naturally the makers claim none of these are a problem.

In conclusion there is a germ of scientific truth at the bottom of the claims. Whether that has been effectively exploited in a product that will reliably work wherever varroa is found is another question. Our interest is piqued but we will once more leave it to others to find out first.

2016-06-24 Not everyone reads the comments to a post so we will draw attention to this Bad Beekeeping Blog post about a bee sauna, which links to fifteen-year-old USDA report on applying heat to remove varroa from bees. That report states that such application of heat had been in use for twenty years in parts of eastern Europe. This kind of treatment seems to have a long history yet the report concludes that "Overall, heat treatment is a risky procedure. Even 40°C, the lowest temperature that can remove all the mites is perilously close to temperatures that kill bees."

Meanwhile the developers express understanding of skepticism but stand behind the product and invite interested parties to a public treatment in August held in the Czech Republic.