- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
You won't find anyone more passionate about honey bees than Susan Cobey.
Cobey, a bee breeder-geneticist and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, has just received the California State Beekeepers' Association's 2009 Distinguished Service Award.
And rightfully so.
Cobey, who accepted the award at the group’s recent conference in San Diego, drew praise for improving stock; teaching advanced beekeeping courses on queen bee rearing and instrument insemination; and pushing to develop import protocol to diversify the U.S. honey bee populations.
Her courses on queen bee rearing and instrument insemination draw students from throughout the world. She'll be teaching more courses in the spring, starting March 31.In introducing the recipient--kept as a surprise--beekeeper Bob Miller of Watsonville started out with: “This person has been involved with beekeeping since earning a degree in entomology in 1976. From that point on, this person has engaged in commercial beekeeping activities, became a lab technician, and has developed a line of queen bees that show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases. She has traveled the world to find promising characteristics and improve that stock. She has taught many classes on queen rearing and artificial insemination with the emphasis on closed populations to enhance the particular line of queens.”
"Sue has been described to me as a casual, sweet person, with a receptive and tolerant attitude," Miller told the crowd.
He couldn't gather much personal information.
"Her friends decline to provide me with stories about her," he said.
One has only to watch her tend her bees to know what Susan Cobey is all about. "Girls, where's your mother?" she asks as she opens a hive, searching for the queen.
When she teaches her stock improvement classes (she's a world authority on instrument insemination), Cobey combines hands-on training with individual attention. "Does that answer your question?" she'll ask.
When beekeepers call her at her UC Davis office or stop by, she responds readily. No wonder that earlier this year she received the Western Apicultural Society's "Outstanding Service to Beekeeping Award" and a UC Davis "Citation for Excellence."
Her passion for honey bees not only drives her but defines her. Mix it with dedication and expertise and there you have it: the recipient of a statewide distinguished service award to the beekeeping industry.And yes, her name is pronounced "Co-bee."