Honey bee and pollinator facility officially opened

OTHELLO, Wash. – Washington State University celebrated the opening of its new Honey Bee & Pollinator Research, Extension, and Education Facility today with a formal ribbon cutting and self-guided tours of the building.

Wide angle shot of the entire crowd watching speakers at the front.
Over 150 people gathered at the grand opening, listening to speakers and taking tours of the new facility.

“This new facility will be a tremendous benefit to our WSU bee and pollinator researchers as well as the beekeeping and agricultural industries in Washington and around the world,” said André-Denis Wright, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “The support we’ve had from donors like the Hiatt family, Ken and Sue Christianson, and Eric and Sue Olson, and groups like the Washington State Beekeepers Association has made this possible. We look forward to developing these important relationships as our scientists work to help save the bees.”

The nearly 50-acre property, which WSU bought this winter, will house most of WSU’s Honey Bee and Pollinator program, which is part of the Department of Entomology. Over $3 million has been raised and fundraising is continuing to expand the impact of the Honey Bee and Pollinator program.

“Our industry needs to support the science WSU researchers are doing,” said Tim Hiatt, co-owner of Hiatt Honey Co. “We’re happy to have helped secure this new home for them and are looking forward to the valuable research that will come out of it.”

It’s not just beekeepers that will benefit, but the agriculture industry as a whole.

Over a dozen people stand behind a red ribbon as an older woman cuts the ribbon with large scissors.
Carol Hiatt cuts the ribbon, officially opening the the new facility.

“The seed crops we grew are so dependent on healthy pollinators,” said Ken Christianson, a retired seed grower and WSU alum. “The WSU bee program and the work they do is so essential to the future of agriculture and feeding the planet.”

Research work

The 2020 season for WSU bee scientists will mostly be focused on getting moved in and set up as well as increasing their stock of honey bees. One of the biggest benefits of the new location is being able to have a commercial-sized number of colonies.

“Having more colonies allows us to do larger field studies on a wide variety of topics,” said Steve Sheppard, P. F. Thurber Endowed Professor of Pollinator Ecology in WSU’s Department of Entomology. “We’re working on scaling up our fungi research to a commercially relevant scale, plus we hope to collaborate more with the seed production industry.”

The program has indoor cold storage chambers already located in Othello that will be used to ramp up previous work researchers have done on a smaller scale. Now they can test the impact of in-season bee hibernation to fight varroa mites, one of the major causes of colony collapse, on a commercial scale.

New projects possible with more support

The new property has two other structures that the bee program plans to make the most of: a greenhouse and a large building with netting inside.

While they both will require updates to be functional, they will allow the program to expand its research into working with other pollinators like bumblebees and other native pollinators.

The program is now fundraising to allow for new projects, and the scientists feel their research track record will instill confidence in future donors.

This summer, WSU will host its annual beekeeping short course at the new facility, allowing both classes and bees to be located in the same place.