Raina Jain ’24 (ENG) was still in high school when she learned at a science fair lecture who the culprit behind much of the honeybee die-off she had been hearing about for years was. The varroa destructor is a tiny mite that attaches itself to, and feeds off, a honeybee.
“That’s when I decided to take it into my own hands and try to think of a tangible solution to that problem,” she says.
Jain reached out to the lecturer, the University of Maryland’s Samuel Ramsay, and read every research paper on honeybees she could find. She built a prototype of a device that used a gel-like solution relying on a substance called thymol, a naturally occurring pesticide that, at low concentrations, doesn’t hurt the bees, but destroys varroa mites. Her prototype failed —but she was undeterred.
“I still have that gel with me today, because I sometimes just look at that and think, ‘Raina, this whole experiment, this whole company, everything started from that first step,’” she says.