A 12-year-old has taken on the most damaging honey bee parasite in the world to win the NIWA Waikato Science and Technology Fair.
The Varroa mite has been plaguing New Zealand beehives for almost 20 years, costing the honey industry millions of dollars each year.
Aidan Hodgson of Pirongia School tested methods of eradicating the varroa mite from beehives in his project 'Destroying Destructor'.
He compared the use of oxalic acid via cardboard strips and vaporisation on several beehives to determine which method was the most effective.
He found out that delivering the acid via vaporisation was slightly more effective than the cardboard strips.
He was named the overall winner of the fair, netting him $1100 in prizemoney, as well as winning Year 7 Living World, Best Year 7 Exhibit, sharing the NZ Institute of Agricultural Science Award — for an Excellent Exhibit with an Agricultural theme — with schoolmate Aylee Gane and being Highly Commended in the NZ Statistical Association Award — More than 400 students from 25 schools entered the fair.
Aidan says the family has a beehive at home and he had been reading about the Varroa mite and was fascinated with its destructive abilities.
He said it would be amazing to eradicate the mite, but keeping levels low was a reasonable expectation in New Zealand.
Aidan consulted with local apiarist Grant Redshaw, and used his recipe for his project.
The difference was in the delivery, as Grant had reported strip treatment often did not work.
Aidan wanted to experiment with a more effective delivery, but used the naturally occurring product as reports were suggesting mites were building resistance to the commercial products.
Aidan was heartened by his results, describing them as significant, but concluded they were actually inconclusive — but worthy of testing on a larger number of hives for a more accurate result.
Tracy Burton, a freshwater ecologist and science fair co-ordinator at NIWA, says the project was a fascinating example of thorough scientific investigation.
"He designed the experiment well and had a good understanding of the many variables involved. It was a great piece of work presented at an extremely high level, aimed at helping to understand ways in which the apiculture industry in NZ can help in the fight against this hive destroying mite."
She said Aidan's project was reflective of a growing interest in environmental issues at science fairs.
"There were a lot of environmental projects this year which is great. It shows the students are thinking about the quality of their future and wanting to do something about it."
Aylee Gane was second Year 8 Living World and fellow Pirongia School students Oliver Herbert and MacKenzie Whyte Second and Highly Commended respectively in Year 7 Material World.