Advancing expertise in Honey Bee Stock Improvement Techniques: Stock Selection, Germplasm Cryopreservation and Instrumental Insemination

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $71,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G236-20-W7504
Grant Recipient: Department of Entomology, Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Walter Sheppard
Department of Entomology, Washington State University
Susan Cobey
Washington State University
Dr. Brandon Hopkins
Washington State University
Dr. Timothy Lawrence
Washington State University

Information Products


  • Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), berries (cranberries), cherries, pears
  • Nuts: almonds
  • Animals: bees
  • Animal Products: honey


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, genetics
  • Crop Production: beekeeping, pollination, pollinator health
  • Education and Training: workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    Honey bees are the most important pollinator of agricultural food crops, and the world’s food supply depends upon a healthy honey bee industry.  Programs to select and breed honey bee stocks that are productive and less susceptible to diseases and pests are needed.  Combining improved cryopreservation technology with the use of instrumental insemination (II), it is now possible to enhance honey bee genetic diversity, enrich selection for managed pollinators and to breed “through time and space” to incorporate progeny testing methods used in breeding other agricultural animals.

    Honey bees mate in flight with multiple drones.  Controlling mating is essential for a breeding program, and II of queens provides this capability.  Currently, II in the US is largely restricted to research institutions, but the procedure is highly desired by the beekeeping industry.  Cryopreservation of bee semen has also been reserved to research groups like the WSU bee program.  However, recent inclusion of honey bee semen from US commercial stocks in the National Animal Germplasm Program, has demonstrated its potential for mainstream use in bee breeding.

    A detailed manual on the technique of II will be developed along with three training videos.  The manual will be a accompanied by an updated version of Susan Cobey's award winning video on II (Cobey 1998).  A second video will be completed on honey bee selection, augmented with graphic art and video enhancement to explain concepts and methodologies to conduct successful breeding programs.  The third video will be centered on cryopreservation, and its use in breeding programs and conservation.

    The project will culminate in a conference bringing together researchers, industry queen producers and extension specialists.  The goal of the Conference/Workshop will be to train the audience in the practical use of these methods so that they, in turn, can train beekeepers, queen producers and growers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Preparation of Instrumental Insemination Instructional Manual

                Text Writing - May 2019 -  Sept 2020.

                Photography and Graphics - May 2019 - Sept. 2020

                Publication 2021


    1. Preparation of Instructional Videos/Training DVDs
    2. Instrumental Insemination Text Re-Writing April 2019 - 2020.

                Photography and Graphics - May 2019- Sept. 2020

                Publication 2021

    1. Honey Bee Breeding and Practical Selection Methods

                Photography and Graphics  May 2019- Sept. 2020

    Publication 2021

    1. Honey Bee Germplasm Cryopreservation

    Photography and Graphics May 2019 – September 2020

    Publication 2021


    1. Honey Bee Breeding Conference 2021

    Workshop and presentations on reproductive technologies (instrumental insemination and germplasm cryopreservation) and on Honey Bee Selection and Breeding methods.

    The conference will include presentations by the co-PI’s of this grant and invited specialists and queen producers using advanced breeding methods.

    Location – Washington State University campus, Pullman, WA

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.