Steve Sheppard is the Thurber Professor of Apiculture and Chair of the Department of Entomology at Washington State University. His interest in honey bees derives from early childhood days spent with beekeeping equipment and bee books in the workshop of his great grandfather, a beekeeper from Savannah Georgia. Steve’s MSc research at the University of Illinois was on pollination biology and his PhD project shifted to research on population genetics and evolution in honey bees. Prior to joining the faculty at WSU, Steve was a research scientist for USDA-ARS, conducting studies on Africanized honey bees and the genetic processes that accompany insect range expansions. Since 1996, Steve, his students, postdocs and research collaborators at WSU have continued basic work on honey bee population genetics and evolution and conducted a long term breeding program to select honey bees adapted for PNW conditions that exhibit improved tolerance of mites and diseases. In collaboration with US queen producers, the lab has been involved in the importation and distribution of novel honey bee genetics from Old World source populations since 2008. Development of practical methods of honey bee semen cryopreservation in Steve’s laboratory enabled WSU to establish the world’s first honey bee germplasm repository. This repository currently houses samples of numerous Old World honey bee subspecies and current domestic breeding stocks. Additional research on honey bee health issues includes: the use of metabolic gases for indoor wintering and mite control, the use of fungal mycelium as a biocontrol agent for parasitic mites and fungal extracts as antivirals for use in bees.
WSU Honey Bee Germplasm Importation and Effects on US Commercial Populations
This talk will cover the importation of honey bee germplasm from Old World sources, cryopreservation, and conservation of germplasm in a genetic repository and utilization. Of this material in both WSU bee breeding efforts and the commercial queen production industry. I will report evidence from a molecular genetic marker study that demonstrates the measureable impact of these importations on current US honey bee populations. I will also report establishment of a honey bee species committee within the USDA-National Animal Germplasm Program and the initial submissions of cryopreserved honey bee semen into the facility in 2016.
Ongoing Research on Mushrooms and Bees at WSU
This talk will cover ongoing and past research findings at WSU on both anti-viral properties of various mushroom extracts on honey bees and the use of Metarizium fungus for direct control of Varroa mites. The talk will cover laboratory and field experiments we conducted to test these materials on honey bees and discuss recently acquired data that indicate the potential for these alternative and novel products to improve honey bee colony health.