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Valhalla Student's Science Project Is The Bees Knees

Sarah Marino, a 17-year-old Valhalla resident, won an Acorda science award for her research on bees.
Sarah Marino, a 17-year-old Valhalla resident, won an Acorda science award for her research on bees. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Ringler

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- A Westlake High School student won an Acorda Scientific Excellence Award for her study of bees.

Sarah Marino, a 17-year-old Valhalla resident, won an award for her project, "Colony Collapse Disorder: Controlling Varroa Destructor Miles in Honeybee Hives."

Marino began her project after hearing about colony collapse disorder, which involves bees suddenly disappearing.

"I've always been interested in sustainability and organic farming," Marino said. "This research could ultimately lead to a widely accepted, environmentally friendly, permanent organic solution to the mite infestation and perhaps a partial solution to colony collapse disorder worldwide."

Marino was looking at a way to stop mites that suck the bloods from honeybees. The mites transmit diseases and weaken the bees' immune systems. Chemicals and organic miticides have proved to be ineffective through natural selection, Marino said.

Recently, scientists have been breeding bees to achieve desirable traits such as resistance to the diseases the mites transmit and hygienic behaviors. Marino used these bees and treated some with HopGuard, a fairly new organic miticide, and left other untreated to serve as controls.

"I did this to determine whether the bees with specific genetically engineered traits or the miticides would be more effective in controlling the mites," Marino said. "I used two methods — sugar rolls and sticky boards — to count the percentage of mite infestation and mortality in each hive. Surprisingly, I found that the genetically engineered bees were better at controlling the mites than the HopGuard was."

Dan Carr, Stone Barns' beekeeper, was Marino's mentor for the project and helped her learn about colony collapse disorder.

Marino said she wants to pursue a future in agriculture, sustainability or entomology.

"I want to look other problems that affect our food supply," Marino said. "Colony collapse disorder is a worldwide issue. My research could possibly lead to a solution to colony collapse disorder worldwide."

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