ESU Grad’s Mite Fight Seeks to Protect Honeybees
Written by Brian Myszkowski for the Pocono Record. Photos courtesy Erik Diemer.
A local beekeeper’s new business has taken flight with an aim to help apiary aficionados and amateurs alike.
Just over a week ago, beekeeper and entrepreneur Erik Diemer celebrated the launch of his new business venture, Mite Fight, with a party at East Stroudsburg University’s Innovation Center.
Diemer, who graduated with a degree in business management from ESU just this past December, wasted no time in setting up a subscription service that he hopes will one day help save honeybee colonies across the country from a scourge that threatens their very existence.
“For beekeepers who are just starting out and they need help, or people who have smaller apiaries, what Mite Fight does is we send you three boxes a year – one in spring, summer and fall,” Diemer said. “Each box has a Varroa mite treatment that will help keep your colony healthier. Also, the boxes will include other supplements and things that you need for the bees in that season. In spring, for example, I’ll include ProDFM, which is a probiotic. I’ll also include a pollen substitute, which helps the bees build up earlier in the season.”
Instructional videos will also be a part of the package, Diemer said, offering step-by-step instructions on how to utilize the treatments and supplements, and information on how they work to protect the bees.
The notorious Varroa mite attacks bees by sucking their blood, transferring various diseases and viruses – such as the Deformed Wing Virus, which prevents honeybees’ wings from developing – that can spread throughout and destroy a colony.
Diemer said that while many people want to help bees, which are suffering population declines across the world, they may be woefully uninformed about the process and the level of expertise it requires, and that’s exactly who Mite Fight is for.
“Beekeepers starting out either have no clue that they need to treat for Varroa mites, or they know they need to treat but they really, really cannot figure out how to do it appropriately,” Diemer said. “Colonies that are left untreated will absolutely collapse in under two years.”
On the other hand, hives that are properly treated have a 20% better survival rate over the course of the winter, Diemer said.
Treated colonies also produce some extra sweet rewards.
“Colonies that are well-treated for Varroa mites produce about 30 pounds more honey on average,” Diemer said. “So if you have the average apiary for the people that I’m targeting – about three colonies – that’s almost 100 pounds more honey each year, simply because you’re keeping healthier bees.”
Having just graduated, Diemer said his startup capital for Mite Fight is rather low, so he spearheaded an Indiegogo campaign in order to raise funding and awareness. Donations can range from $3 to $500, with perks awarded for each contribution.
“One of the lowest perks you can earn is to have your name laser-etched into a beehive,” Diemer said. “That perk is only $3, so I implore everyone to donate $3 for the bees.”
Other perks include Mite Fight stickers, which can actually help bees find their hive in crowded apiaries, handmade lip balms from Pocono Soap, an annual subscription to Mite Fight, Mite Fighter T-shirts, raw honey, and the chance to name a queen bee.
Diemer hopes these awards will help form a community for people who want to help save the bees but may not know how to go about it.
“I feel like this is how we’re going to get through these issues,” Diemer said. “Pesticides are still around, and there is always going to be some kind of pest or some kind of threat against honeybees. Since they’re responsible for about a third of the food that we eat, I think that it’s really important that we keep them in mind.”
Currently, Diemer is building up his clientele in the northeast, though he hopes to go national someday soon. Not only will that help with business, it will provide a larger network for him to collect data on colony health, which is surprisingly lacking in this day and age. Such information could prove invaluable for small apiaries as well as commercial operations.
“So, if I develop a network of beekeepers that are keeping data on the health of their bees and relaying that back to me, I can create a forecast for commercial beekeepers to know what the landscape is like where they are moving hundreds or thousands of colonies,” Diemer said.
Being that Diemer has, as of late, been busy as a bee – what with the launch party, followed by hosting a table at the Philadelphia Beekeeping Symposium and then a presentation at the Milford Beekeeping Club – it seems that his new venture is off to a great start, and bound to make a difference in the world of honeybees.
“I have the opportunity, if Mite Fight takes off and is successful, to really have a strong impact on the health of honeybees across the country,” Diemer said.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and I’m incredibly passionate about it. I’m really glad that I was able to use some of the resources here at the Innovation Center, and to have the support of the community, to take my passion and run with it.”
To view the original story, and see more pictures visit the Pocono Record.