honey bees

How A 'Sperm Bank' Is Saving Honey Bees

Aug 1, 2016
Brandon Hopkins / Washington State University

Think of it as a sperm bank for honey bees. That is essentially what you’ll find at Washington State University’s apiary lab. There’s even a “fertility clinic” where researchers artificially inseminate the queens.

If all that sounds like sticky business, try explaining it to a customs agent at the airport.  

Beekeepers flock from all over the country to California every February and March to watch billions of honeybees buzz around the state's almond trees. Eighty percent of the country's commercial bees visit the Golden State each spring.

So I went to check out the scene at an almond orchard at the California State University, Fresno, in Central California.

"Really, the key is to stay calm around bees, because if you're afraid, then your body physiologically changes and they can sense that," beekeeper Brian Hiatt tells me. "They literally can smell fear."

Tom Banse

This is the time of year when local farmers count on bees and other insects to pollinate orchards and vegetable and berry fields. The change in the seasons is not the only thing creating a buzz in the world of beekeeping.

This week, the European Commission put a moratorium on the use of three popular pesticides judged to pose high risk to bees.

Beekeepers have started to push Washington State's Department of Agriculture to go in that direction, too. And that could have an effect on what's available at your local garden center.