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PULLMAN, Wash. -- There's a lot of buzz at Washington State University over work to develop the first sperm bank for honeybees.

Entomologist Steve Sheppard and his crew are using liquid nitrogen to preserve bee semen. The goal is to preserve and improve the stock of honeybees and to prevent subspecies from extinction.

Honeybees are serious business. Washington's $1 billion apple crop, for instance, needs 250,000 colonies of bees each year to pollinate the orchards.

As a result, there is incentive to find ways to strengthen bee colonies. The problem has been storing bee sperm for the long term.

Sheppard's team came up with the solution of preserving it in liquid nitrogen tanks on the Pullman campus. It can be preserved this way for years.

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