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WSU researchers to create honey bee sperm bank

Honeybees wait for new homes in Eugene on Thursday. New city rules allow three hives on most residential lots. (Associated Press)

Washington State University researchers are creating a sperm bank for honey bees.

The liquid nitrogen storage unit will collect frozen genetic bee material from select U.S. and European honey bee colonies, a release from the WSU Department of Entomology said.

Researchers will also work to cross-breed different kinds of honey bees to “produce more diverse, resilient honey bee subspecies that could help thwart the nation’s current colony collapse crisis.”

In 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture issued WSU a permit to import honey bee semen for breeding purposes. The import of honey bees is otherwise banned in the United States.

“The semen will be collected from the strongest and best stock in Europe, then injected into the strongest and best queen bee stock from the United States, thereby helping to strengthen and diversify U.S. bee colonies,” the release said.

The sperm is gathered by applying a small amount of pressure on an adult bee’s abdomen.