There’s a lot of buzz at Washington State University over work to develop the first sperm bank for honeybees.
Entomologist Steve Sheppard and his crew are using liquid nitrogen to preserve semen extracted from the industrious insects that pollinate much of the nation’s food supply but face environmental threats. The goal is to preserve and improve the stock of honeybees and to prevent subspecies from extinction.
“We do that frequently with horses and cattle and chickens,” said Susan Cobey, a research associate on the project. “Finally, we have the capability to do it with bees.”
Honeybees are serious business. Washington’s $1 billion apple crop, for instance, needs 250,000 colonies of bees each year to pollinate the orchards. California almond growers need 1 million colonies per year to pollinate their crop.
As a result, there is incentive to find ways to strengthen bee colonies. …