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Vivian Wu

Palo Alto High School
Palo Alto, California

About Vivian Wu

Vivian used radio frequency identification tagging and algorithm analysis, to investigate formic acid, a chemical often used by beekeepers to kill parasitic varroa mites that attack honeybees. However, she found the acid seems to suppress the bees’ foraging abilities. She hopes researchers can identify a safer insecticide to better protect bees and help avoid colony collapse.

Evaluating the Impact of the Varroacide Formic Acid on Honeybee Foraging Performance

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Vivian Wu, 18, of Palo Alto, investigated whether formic acid, a popular agent used by beekeepers to kill varroa mites, negatively affects the foraging abilities of honeybees for her Regeneron Science Talent Search animal sciences project. Vivian used radio frequency identification tags to track the number and duration of flights of both developing and mature worker bees. She analyzed her data using a Python algorithm she wrote herself. When formic acid was applied, test bees experienced declines in the duration and number of foraging trips and the number of days spent foraging. These numbers eventually recovered, but only to lower levels than her control bees. Vivian concluded that the use of formic acid significantly reduced the bee colony’s ability to forage, likely due to the acid’s impact on energy production at the cellular level. This research warrants further investigation into varroa mite treatment options.

Vivian attends Palo Alto High School, where she co-captains the girls’ varsity basketball team and a STEM team. She is also an Eagle Scout and translates STEM materials into Chinese for a local nonprofit. The daughter of Hai Wu and Yumei Xiong, Vivian wants to study environmental science in college and become a researcher.

2023 STS Finalists Vivian Wu with Project

Beyond the Project

Vivian is an Eagle Scout and founding member of one of the first female Boy Scout troops. She also translates materials into Chinese for several nonprofit organizations. During a recent internship, she researched a potentially new fungal infection in bumble bees.

FUN FACTS: Vivian loves making scented candles from her hive’s beeswax; her favorite is cinnamon.

Illustration of 2023 STS finalist Vivian Wu by Amy Wike
Illustration by Amy Wike