WSU preparing sperm bank to save honey bee population

WSU preparing sperm bank to save honey bee population

Credit: AP Graphics

Western honey bee collects nectar from a flower, River Ridge, Louisiana.

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by WSU and KREM.com

KING5.com

Posted on June 7, 2013 at 11:09 AM

PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State University researchers are preparing to use liquid nitrogen to create a frozen semen bank from select U.S. and European honey bee colonies.

At the same time, the researchers will use genetic cross-breeding methods to produce more diverse, resilient honey bee subspecies that could help thwart the nation's current colony collapse crisis.

Honey bees face a lot of challenges, said Steve Sheppard, professor of entomology at WSU.

Invasive mites can sap a brood’s strength and vector viruses. Pesticides can build up in the brood comb and gradually weaken the bees. And while the agricultural practice of monoculture provides a lot of food, it offers little of the nutritional variety that bees need.

Some of these threats may weaken or kill a hive on their own, but a combination of factors is thought to be the cause of colony collapse disorder, in which the worker bees abruptly disappear, and the entire local population is doomed.

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