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Honey-bee research facility improves colony health.

Honey bees are the most economically valuable pollinator in the world, yet the crisis they’ve faced over the past two decades is putting the U.S. food supply at risk. In response, Washington State University’s honey bee researchers are finding new ways to increase colony health and diversify the gene pool. We are proud to support the new honey bee pollinator research facility in Othello, Wash., now home to the world’s premier program and some of the brightest, next generation talent to help save the bees.

The nearly 50-acre property will house most of WSU’s Honey Bee and Pollinator Research and Education Program, which is part of the Department of Entomology. The facility’s size allows WSU researchers to conduct larger field studies – with a commercial-sized number of colonies – for a wide range of pollinator research. With indoor cold storage chambers, the WSU bee team can test the impact of in-season bee hibernation on a commercial scale. A large greenhouse and building with indoor netting will allow the program to expand its research into other pollinators, such as bumblebees and other native insects.

Based on current research done by WSU scientists and students, cold storage techniques are being applied by commercial beekeepers in Washington, Idaho and California. Their research shows honey bees kept in cold storage for specific amounts of time, at certain temperatures during the winter, are proving stronger and healthier than other hives. Feed additives are improving immune function and overall bee health. And, the bee breeding program at WSU is also the only one in the United States approved to collect and import semen from male honey bees around the world to artificially inseminate living queens for new genetic stock. To address the crisis of bee colony collapse, WSU’s Honey Bee and Pollinator program has three goals:

Increase honey bee immunity and colony health through nutrition. The WSU Bee Team is developing nutritional supplements and food additives through a public-private partnership and will make this research available to the public.

Implement change management practices at a commercial scale to minimize honey bee colony loss. Experiments with cold storage, carbon dioxide manipulation, mushroom extracts and habitat management are being done in cooperation with commercial beekeepers. WSU scientists are also studying the ecology and integrated pest management needs of native and non-honey bee pollinators.

Conserving honey bee diversity. Because living honey bees cannot be imported into the U.S., WSU researchers have discovered a way to preserve germplasm from male honey bees through cryopreservation. With permission from USDA, the WSU Bee Team travels to the Old World origins of honey bees, most recently in Europe and Asia, collecting samples for a breeding program to better equip honey bees to fight pests and respond to environmental changes.

Additional 2020 Investments in WSU Education and Research

Viticulture and Enology Program: Expands research labs and processing space to support wine industry growth.

Tree Fruit Research Center: Provides updated equipment and electrical systems for a new cold storage facility. 

Dairy Sciences Upgrades: Provides facility updates to help students prepare for work in the dairy industry, including upgrades for Ferdinand’s cheese and ice cream production.

Dairy Sciences: Enables the College of Ag to add a faculty member to expand the program and number of minority students.

Irrigated and Dryland Research: Affords the purchase of two new tractors and updated equipment to support small grains research.

4-H Program: Supports 4-H virtual learning and the Eco-stewardship program.

MANRRS Program: Provides scholarships and endowment funding for the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences student organization on campus.

“We are thrilled with the support for our students, our research and our facilities. Our long-term partnership with Northwest Farm Credit is so important to us. Their support of our honey bee and pollinator facility and research program will benefit agriculture around the world.” – André-Denis Wright, Dean, WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences