Portable Field Microscope for Beekeeping
For as long as I have been a beekeeper - going on 9 years now - I have heard the lament that there is no way to take a microscope out into the apiary for disease diagnosis and related identification confirmation.
One year, one of the larger Missouri beekeeping clubs had an array of microscopes borrowed from a local university. Each one had an attending student and, although we could peer through the eye piece, no one could actually touch the $5,000+ pieces of equipment.
At another beekeeping club meeting, there was a sample of a variety of computer software available but none had the clarity and ease of use, and all required hauling a computer of some sort along with it. There were a few there were phone apps but those were in testing mode with less than impressive quality.
When my brother and his son mentioned they were working to develop a quality, portable and affordable microscope for schools to use in science classes, that got my attention and I asked if I could see one. This Christmas I got my wish. My brother gave me one of his portable lunchbox-size microscopes to take out for a spin. Actually it was the first Lunchbox Viewer from their latest manufactured batch, even autographed by the designer on the back side of the viewer. Bet my bees will be impressed.
My brother and nephew gave me one demo on how to set it up and break it down while my niece nearby was also discussing her fashion choices. That was deliberate, my nephew said, they wanted to see how easy it was to remember how to assemble and take apart to store. My niece talking about her clothes at the same time, though, was accidental. I think.
Assembly was easy; I was a little worried about putting it all away but the body of the lunchbox has an easy guide on what pieces go where.
My gift included a padded box from a big box store so that a Google Chrome book easily travels with the “Lunchbox Viewer.” Here is the Lunchbox Viewer tucked into the bottom of the padded box.
The Lunchbox Viewer basically has six pieces to assemble. They are easy to fit into the right spots and a bit intuitive.
I braved cold weather to scoop a few dead bees out of nearby hives. One bee was less than impressed getting dragged out of her hive so I had to escort that one back outside. Yes, I remembered which hive she was in!
Once working, the Lunchbox Viewer can also be hooked up to a laptop to take and save photos. The Google Chrome book was nicely thin and easily fits into the protective case.
I have been looking at bees for almost a decade and I have never seen my bees in such detail. I was surprised to see how “fuzzy” these older winter bees still are, and how their legs have arrow-shapes where they collect flower pollen. Their wings were also surprising, I could see their “veins” through the gossamer-like appendages.
I did say this was portable and easy to carry so here is the Lunchbox Viewer, packed up and ready to take outside.
With an attached laptop, the whole set up will nicely fit on top of a hive lid. Yes, I set it up outside for a few minutes to make sure it all fit.
And here it is, being quite portable.
The Lunchbox Viewer was developed to support InSciEdOut, a STEM-based curriculum my brother also helped to design to get students and teachers interested in science and math. According to their website, “InSciEdOut is a collaborative partnership committed to rebuilding pre-K through grade 12 science education. Our mission is to engage students and empower teachers through research-based, experiential classroom learning.”
Proceeds from the Lunchbox Viewer support the program, currently in use in Chicago, Rochester, Mn and all of India.
It’s almost standard practice these days for endorsements to include some kind of financial reward but I am not getting anything for this endorsement, I truly believe this is a great tool for bee disease diagnosis and beekeepers education. I also think it’s a great tool for science classrooms everywhere but that’s another story.
Retail for the Lunchbox Viewer is $299 per unit. The cost does not include the Google Chrome book, which was purchased separately during a Black Friday sale for $29 nor the padded carrier, purchased at a big box hardware store.
I am looking forward to seeing pollen grains up close next!