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.
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.