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Biology

Fall 2004

The Butterfly Lady

Like many children, Chris Hunter Hebdon enjoyed being outdoors, searching for insects on the ground, in the water, and on plants. Beetles were her favorite.

Her love of insects came from her mother, who, when she returned to school to become a biology teacher, took Hebdon with her on field trips in the Walla Walla area.

Hebdon’s fascination with creatures that crawl, fly, hop, and squirm intensified while she was a student at Washington State University (’74 Entomology), and it has metamorphosed into a growing business-the Susquehanna Butterfly Co.

From late May well into October, her booth at a farmer’s market in the Binghamton, New … » More …

Spring 2004

The Last Roses of Summer

Steve Smith has good news for those of us who like to satisfy more than one sense at a time. The domestic rose, bred too long for form and color only, to the detriment of scent, is regaining its fragrance. Smith ’76, the head rose gardener at Manito Park in Spokane, is showing us his charges, which in late September are still in full bloom, and we spend much of our time sniffing.

A visit to Smith’s All-American Rose Selection (AARS) display garden gives a portrait of things to come. Each year, Manito and the other 130 such gardens across the country display the new … » More …

Spring 2004

Building a better bee trap

Bee-trap manufacturers like to use a chemical substance called pheromones to attract bees into traps and away from people. Problem is, they don’t always work.

Providing the right amount of pheromones is imperative. Too many pheromones or too much of one of its components repels bees, and the amount of pheromones that is optimal for attracting bees may vary during a day, depending on temperature and light. Prashanta Dutta, assistant professor in mechanical and materials engineering, has been working with Spokane-based Sterling International to build a better bee trap-one in which the release of very tiny amounts of pheromones can be carefully monitored and adjusted.

» More …

Winter 2005

A Sweet Buzz: Honey

Entomologist Steve Sheppard has never gotten over his wonder at how people came to raise swarms of stinging insects for the honey they produce.

“To see this guy dumping out thousands of bees to collect honey from their hive. . .” He shakes his head. “It’s amazing that humans ever figured it out to do that.”

But the Washington State University associate professor, who not only keeps bees himself, but unflinchingly opens beehives with his bare hands, understands the passion for honey.

People prize it as a delicacy and demand it as a staple. They cherish some honeys for their color and admire others for … » More …

Spring 2005

Woodley collects, identifies, and preserves flies

From his office in the Smithsonian Institution’s Systematic Entomology Laboratory, Norm Woodley helps care for the world’s largest bug collection and identifies threatening pests before they get into the country.

A fly specialist and taxonomist, Woodley (’76 Entom.) is also a curator of the 40 million specimens housed primarily at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. He and his colleagues use the collection and their expertise to identify insects that have hitchhiked into the country on overseas cargo shipments. Federal Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service agents collect the bugs and larvae they find on goods that come in on ships and planes. … » More …

Video: A Buzz about Bees

Walter (Steve) Sheppard is one busy man, flying his own plane around the Pacific Northwest to meet with beekeepers and deliver queen-breeding stock produced in his honey bee breeding program to beekeeper collaborators. He also travels to countries such as Kazakhstan to study populations of honey bees from wild apple forests that have the potential to be added to Washington State University breeding stock. Over the years, he and his students have bred bees to resist parasites and diseases, produce more honey, and survive harsh winters better than their ancestors. He’s even bred friendlier bees that are easier for beekeepers to work with.

Among the … » More …

Fall 2007

Borrowing nature's designs

In Michael Knoblauch’s lab, the gap between fundamental research and practical applications is a narrow one.

Knoblauch studies the inner workings of phloem (FLOAM), the channels that transport water and nutrients throughout a plant. Research doesn’t get much more basic than that—yet one of his recent discoveries is leading him straight to the patent office.

He’s found that structures in the phloem of some plants have great potential as high-tech, microscopic valves, sensors, and motors.

Knoblauch named the structures “forisomes,” which means “gate-bodies.” He found that they keep the phloem from leaking after it’s been injured.

Phloem is comprised of parallel tubes, or sieve elements, … » More …