Monday, June 17, 2013

Scientists Prepare To Breed Super Bees

It’s for Science, Okay? Scientists Prepare to Freeze Bee Semen, Breed Superbees.

honey bee  

Bee warned: Researchers at Washington State University are starting a frozen semen bank to store the genetic material of honey bees. In addition, they will use crossbreeding from various colonies to create new generations of bees that are more diversified and resilient to environmental threats. There’s probably room for another bee joke here, but I’m drawing a blank.

Honey bee colonies face various hazards to their survival, both natural ones like parasites and diseases, and human-caused, such as pesticides, leading to a decline in populations and colony collapses in the U.S. and worldwide in recent years. This combination of factors makes it difficult for scientists to solve the overall problem easily, making it a serious threat to agriculture, as many crops are dependent on bees for pollination.

Professor Steve Sheppard, an entomologist at WSU, intends to collect bee semen samples from colonies from the U.S. and Europe and freeze them in liquid nitrogen, which preserves it for decades. They can then be injected into a queen bee’s oviduct and delivered to bee breeders.

“I want to be able to just pull out a tube of semen from the liquid nitrogen tank and give you a custom order of whatever you want in a bee,” said Susan Cobey, a WSU research associate. People want a lot of things, but I’ve never heard that particular desire expressed before.

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