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Bees

New World Carniolan bee on lavender
Summer 2012

Raising queens

Few things are as mysterious and amazing as the life of the queen bee, says bee breeder Sue Cobey. Just a few days after she hatches from her cell, the queen’s fertility is optimal and she has just a brief time to mate for the rest of her four-year life.

The timing is critical, says Cobey, as she describes the process to a roomful of rapt Puget Sound-area beekeepers. If the weather is warm and mild, she leaves the hive, flying low at first to avoid her own colony’s drones before heading to a place where drones from other hives are waiting for a queen … » More …

Winter 2001

In search of a tougher honey bee

WASHINGTON STATE apple growers have a problem. The honey bees that pollinate their trees can be a little wimpy when it comes to temperature.

Apple growers prefer to have the king, or primary, blooms pollinated, because they produce the biggest apples. But all too often, the trees bloom during cool weather. And the resident honey bees, being mostly of Italian descent and therefore partial to Mediterranean weather, hole up when the temperature dips below 55 degrees F.

Other bees do better in cool weather but often have quirks of their own that limit their usefulness as pollinators.

So Steve Sheppard—associate professor of entomology at Washington … » 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 …

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 …