Accelerators and Electronic Beams in Beekeeping?

submitted by Ginger Davidson

Yesterday, I took some of my beekeeping equipment to a company to have it sterilized through electricity based irradiation. Although the drive to Northern Indiana was long and I don't have any known diseases, I wanted to try this option as a precautionary measure with some of my older hive body boxes and frames. Among other things, I plan on using this equipment for a small research project where I will be starting packages on drawn comb instead of using intensive bee resources to draw out wax on new foundation.

The electron beam accelerator machine was described to me as being similar to a huge microwave which destroys pathogens, such as bacteria, mold/fungi, microorganisms and insect pests. It accomplishes this by inactivating the DNA and thereby preventing further replication of these organisms. It is meant to provide a cost effective and environmentally friendly solution for managing common beehive contaminants such as American foulbrood (AFB), Chalkbrood, Nosema and other pests such as wax moth eggs from comb, pollen, wax and equipment.

Prior to leaving home, the equipment must be bagged in heavy duty trash bags, sealed with tape, and marked with your name. Once you arrive at the Iotron loading dock in Columbia City, Indiana a friendly staff member verifies packaging and labeling and also helps unload the equipment.

I called ahead for an appointment and was told to leave my equipment for 3 hours.  However,  I arrived a little early and there was extra space to put my boxes on the next run of the machine. So, we quickly offloaded it and got it on the conveyor belt. The machine makes 2 passes at the equipment. Each pass takes approximately 10 minutes and they flip the equipment in between passes. The plastic bags stay on the entire time. The cost was $5 per hive body or bag.

Within an hour of arriving, my truck was re-loaded with processed equipment and I was ready to meet my cousin for lunch in Ft. Wayne before making the 4 hour drive back home. During that hour timeframe, I had the opportunity to meet 5 or 6 other beekeepers as they picked up or dropped off their equipment. They were mostly from Northern Indiana where the winter was even harsher. As a matter of fact, it had snowed earlier that morning and there was still snow on the ground. The consensus among the Northern beekeepers was that there were a lot of bees that didn’t make it through the winter. They were looking forward to starting over with sterilized equipment.

The company warehouse was filled with bags and bags of corn cob bedding. Apparently this is used by labs who do work with rabbits, Guinea pigs, etc. This process will ensure that other pathogens are not introduced into their research through the bedding materials. They also use the accelerator to treat medical implants, food, dog food, planting pots, and to make polymers stronger for the aerospace industry.

Was it worth the time, drive, and cost? Check back later in the year. My cousin is already planning on me coming back to have lunch next year during the one day they open up the equipment to smaller beekeeper operations. So, I hope so.


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