Human World

Susan Cobey builds a better bee

Honey bees in the United States are in decline. What scientists call Colony Collapse Disorder has wiped out about a third of U.S. beehives. EarthSky spoke to bee breeder Susan Cobey of the University of California Davis about building a better bee.

Susan Cobey focuses on breeding bees that can recognize pests and disease and remove them from the hive. Cobey said her long term plan is to enhance the honey bee gene pool.

That’s important because we’re dependent on bees for our food supply. They pollinate most of our crops – their work is worth fourteen billion dollars a year. A wider gene pool provides tools to maintain the health of the entire US population of honey bees.

Dr. Cobey does that by crossing domestic bees with European bees. Bees in Europe have always been selected for pest and disease resistance. She’s confident the bee population will eventually recover. So Cobey believes a hybrid will make a stronger bee.

EarthSky asked Cobely how you actually breed bees. She told us that it involves artificial insemination under a microscope with a very tiny syringe.

Our thanks to:
Susan Cobey
University of California,
Davis, CA

January 6, 2009
Human World

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