PULLMAN, Wash. --- Often, bees can die out due to diseases, parasites and even cold winters. A group of researchers at Washington State University has made it their mission to help bees survive.
Many people see bees as a pest, but honey bees are actually a pretty important part of life, especially for farmers. Researchers call them the world’s most important pollinators
Like other animals that hibernate in the winter, bees will be winterizing. Come spring, the bees will be back outside, but its likely not all of them will make it through the winter.
Researchers at WSU are trying to breed bees that can brave the cold conditions better than other bees.
Studying bees is a sticky business at times and can even be pretty painful.
"Yeah, I get stung every day,” said Brandon Hopkins, a researcher at WSU.
It is a minor inconvenience for studying and hopefully preserving what they call the world’s most important pollinators.
"They're really an intricate part of our agricultural system,” Hopkins said.
Bees play an important role in pollinating all kinds of crops. However, researchers like Hopkins, said bee populations across the country have been declining in recent years. Winters have been tough on bees as they huddle together for warmth in their hives.
“They're alive in there [hives],” said Hopkins.
Hopkins said national studies have shown that beekeepers are tending to lose more and more bees over the winter. That is not a good thing.
The team at WSU wants to do something about that. They are breeding bees that have a better chance of making it to spring.
"It's selecting stocks that tolerate cold weather,” said Hopkins.
There are other factors to the research, like breeding bees that are more resistant to common types of diseases and parasites that can devastate colonies. Hopkins points out, they are not trying to create the “perfect bee.”
"The best bee here in Washington may not be the best bee for Florida,” commented Hopkins.
Hopkins added, that bees are very undervalued. Bees play in to pollinating not only the crops we eat, but the crops that livestock eat too. Hopkins, along with other people, want to make sure bees can continue to do their job.
"It feels great, because we're doing remarkable things here at WSU,” said Hopkins.
The researchers at WSU told KREM 2 they are pushing to get their own building solely for bee research.