Washington State Univ. Opens Sperm Bank For Honeybees

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) – Entomologists at Washington State University are using liquid nitrogen to preserve semen extract from honeybees in an attempt to preserve and strengthen the stock in the face of environmental threats.  Honeybees pollinate much of the nation’s food supply. In Washington state alone, 250,000 colonies are necessary to pollinate the orchards that produce a $1 billion apple crop, while California almond growers require 1 million colonies per year. 

Honeybees are threatened by various factors: invasive mites, exposure to disease and pesticides, or a substandard diet due to practices that discourage the modern farm from planting a variety of crops.  If faced with a combination of these threats, the worker bees can disappear, dooming an entire hive.  This phenomenon is call colony collapse disorder. 

To counter this, scientists believe that they must create stronger and smarter bees, and they can do this by working with the semen to “selectively breed honeybees to improve the subspecies and make it more resistant to danger.”

The new sperm bank which is now open for business is also called a “germplasm repository.”