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When software devs take on science

August 20, 2020

In years to come, we might not remember how much impact the pandemic had on our lives. And we don’t mean just in the obvious ways — the fear and loss and sadness — but in the way it has ground all life outside the home to a virtual halt.

And even though we’ve been in the throes of it since March, we still haven’t become accustomed to the strange, stutter-step pace of life in semi-lockdown. So many businesses and universities are still closed, and the ones open are operating with smaller crews and longer wait times.

A year ago on this same blog we talked about losing time to weather and the approach of winter, and now we’re losing it to a virus.

The USDA, working with a small crew themselves, won’t be able to test as much as they originally thought. That has been a heck of a blow, since we were counting on them to run all the wax tests before the season runs out. So with them unable to test all the dilutions and all the iterations we need, we’re in the position of determining which ones matter most.

We’ve decided the first, most important test is to see how much of the pure, undiluted carnauba powder is needed for adequate coating of a honey bee. Of course we have to determine what exactly is “adequate.”

Dick Rogers, who has supported us all this time, had this to say:

“In your case, I feel ‘adequate’ would be, at least, the legs and underbelly covered. However if they get completely covered, that would be the best because any adhering mites would get exposed — plus the bee will probably groom more vigorously and may knock the mite off in the process. Also, fully coating the bee may result in more residual powder getting transported back to the hive where other bees in the hive will get exposed to a lesser amount.”

But then, how much has to be in the dish to...and will the honey bees even walk...but will it be too much and clog…how many times and how many petri dishes...

These are our meetings. Questions and speculative answers from which more questions and more speculative answers branch.

Meanwhile, our incredible chemist at Koster Keunen is having a hard time finding a company who can powder the wax, but not for lack of trying: “I understand you are in a hurry but I spoke to 6 companies last week and only 1 has lab capability for cryogenic powdering.”

If we can’t get the powder, we can’t run the tests. If we can’t run the tests, then what? It seems like every few months there’s a threshold we can’t pass, and a do-or-die moment.

This, truly, might be it.