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Bee Breathing and Powder Sizing

Bee Breathing and Powder Sizing

Designing a safe solution to help bees fend off the Varroa mite with high efficacy was no walk in the park—even for the overachieving crew at Perpetual Pollen. But after years of testing our concepts with world-class apiologists, we learned crucial lessons about bee behavior that led us to the iteration of Everbee Protect powder that hit the mark. We discovered the optimal powder formulation that encourages bees to groom themselves, effectively shedding Varroa!

So how does it work? And more importantly, how do we make sure it’s safe for bees? Buckle up to learn some science! 

A quick lesson on how bees breathe

Our bodies are incredible biocomputers that perform functions, such as breathing, that we barely think about. Though most mammals have lungs to breathe, have you ever wondered how honey bees do it?

Unlike us, honey bees don’t have lungs. Instead, their respiration happens through holes on their thorax and abdomen, called “spiracles.” You can see six spiracles on the left side of the diagram below.

 Anatomy of a honey bee

It’s vital that the spiracles remain open and unblocked. If a bee’s spiracles are clogged, they will be unable to breathe and can die. Even worse, the size of a bee’s spiracles influences how susceptible it is to mite infestations.

How does our powder work?

A honey bee’s job is to collect pollen and bring it back to the hive. To this end, bee bodies have millions of tiny hairs on the sides of their bodies to carry the pollen with. But this isn’t the only function they serve. The hairs are crucial to bees’ ability to “self-groom.” Bees use their legs to comb through the hairs and remove small irritants that can be detrimental to their ability to function normally.

Unfortunately, Varroa mites use these hairs to attach to bees, feed on them, and infect hives when bees bring them home after a long day collecting pollen. 

Protect™ powder, made of pulverized carnauba wax infused with essential oils, is designed to mimic pollen so it sticks to the bee’s hairs the same way. The powder stimulates a coated bee to groom itself — and this is key! 

Getting the particle size just right

Remember our lesson on spiracles? Our challenge early on was to ensure our powder particles didn’t clog honey bee spiracles, helping to protect them from mites but not otherwise harming them. 

In our early studies, we found that when the powder particles were below 90 microns in size, it was more likely to make the bees sluggish, otherwise irritate them, or result in death. Further research found that a reasonable particle size to create an effective powder that irritates mites but does not enter bee spiracles or harm bees is between 100-200 microns. 

We’ve now developed a double-filtration process that ensures powder particles always fall between 125 and 200 microns for maximum efficacy. This means bees can return to pollen collection as normal while successfully detaching deadly Varroa mites.

Happier bees create a happier planet. And an ecstatic team at Perpetual Pollen! We’re betting you share our excitement. We hope you join us in helping honey bees get stronger with Everbee Protect™.