It's not every beekeeper who can say they've owned--and used--a smoker for 70 years.
"Bee Man" Norman Gary can.
And he displayed it at the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, held recently at UC Davis.
Gary, who initiated and spearheaded the founding of WAS while a professor of apiculture at UC Davis, told the 150 conference participants that he's owned the smoker since age 13. And, holding it up, he promised that it would be auctioned off at the society's 50th conference. "But I won't be here."
Gary, 84, a resident of the Sacramento area, was introduced as a noted apiculturist, scientist, author, bee wrangler and musician. "His 70-year career with bees includes hobby and commercial beekeeping, 32 years as an entomology professor teaching apiculture at UC Davis, more than 40 years as a bee research scientist and more than 100 publications," WAS president Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, told the crowd.
Mussen added that Gary wrote the popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist; The Care and Keeping of Bees, and "he spent 40 years as a consultant and bee stunt coordinator for 17 movies, 70 TV shows and six TV commercials."
Taking the podium, Norm Gary related that he co-founded the society with Mussen, newly arrived at UC Davis in 1976 with a doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota; and postdoctoral fellow Becky Westerdahl, now an Extension nematologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Chronicling the history of WAS, Gary recalled how much he enjoyed attending the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) meetings as a graduate student and post doc at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and thought "Why not a Western Apicultural Soicety?"
"I was a young man then," he said, "but I don't remember being young."
Gary, the oldest of five children, spent his childhood in a small, central Florida farming community known as Oak (near Ocala). Insects, especially honey bees, have fascinated him since age four.
Gary singled out four important points about honey bees "that you should all remember."
- Bees feed us. "Bees are responsible for one-third of our food supply."
- Honey bees are never "aggressive," and "don't ever use that word; bees are 'defensive' when they are defending their colonies. They defend their nest by stinging. Bees foraging for flowers--they will not sting you unless you step on one."
- "Bees do not ever, ever regurgitate. They suck up liquid nectar and it goes into a special storage chamber, not the stomach. When they get back to their hive, they unload it." In other words, honey is not vomit or barf, he emphasized.
- "Honey bees are real bees. Why do you insist on spelling 'honeybee' as one word? Honey bee is two words."
Case in Point: Honey Bee or Honey Bees? Richard Levine, former communications manager for the Entomological Society of America (ESA), said it well in a piece published in the May 6, 2014 edition of Entomology Today:
"The reason for the discrepancy is that entomologists use two words if a common name accurately describes the order to which a particular insect belongs. For example, all true flies belong to the order Diptera, so true fly names will be spelled using two words by entomologists — house fly, horse fly, pigeon fly, or stable fly, for example. However, despite their names, dragonflies and butterflies are NOT true flies — their orders are Odonata and Lepidoptera, respectively — so they are spelled as one word.
"The same goes for 'bed bug' or 'stink bug,'” both of which are true bugs in the order Hemiptera, which is why they are spelled as two words in the entomological community," Levine wrote. "However, insects that are not in the order Hemiptera, like billbugs or sowbugs, are spelled as one word.
"Likewise, honey bees and bumble bees are true bees in the order Hymenoptera, so entomologists spell them as two words, even though the dictionaries and newspapers spell them as one."
"Bee Man" Norman Gary could not agree more.
The insects he loves--the insects that have fascinated him for 70 years and counting--are "honey bees," not "honeybees."
In fact, they have for 70 years. Seven decades. Yes, that's how long he's kept bees.
Norm Gary's 70-year career includes both hobby and commercial beekeeping, but you probably know him by his other credentials:
- 32 years as an entomology professor teaching apiculture at UC Davis
- More than 40 years as a bee research scientist with more than 100 publications
- Author of the 174-page popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
- 40 years as a consultant and bee stunt coordinator for 17 movies, 70 TV shows, and 6 TV commercials
There's another side to Norm Gary you may not know. He initiated and spearheaded the founding of the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) and served as its first president.
So when WAS returns Sept. 5-8 to its roots--UC Davis--for its 40th annual conference, Gary will lead a nostalgic discussion on the founding of the organization. The presentation takes place at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen will join him. Mussen, co-founder and founding vice president of WAS, is currently serving his sixth term as WAS president.
A musician since childhood, Gary plays clarinet (B-flat clarinet!), alto sax, tenor sax and flute either in bands he's organized or with other professional musicians. He's entertained at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee since 1979, wowing the crowds with such tunes as "When the Saints Go Marching In," "If I Had You," "Just a Little While to Stay Here," "New Orleans," "Long Way to Tippary" and "My Gal Sal."
But back to the bees.
A native of the small farming community of Oak, Fla., Gary turned a fascination for bugs at age 4 into hobby beekeeping at age 15 when his dog led him to a dead tree containing a wild honey bee nest. He transferred them to a modern hive where they became his “pets.”
Gary joined the UC Davis faculty in 1962 and developed and taught the first insect behavior course at the university. He also developed and taught a graduate course on the use of television for research and teaching. He retired from academic life in 1994, but not from his bees and his music.
A world-renowned professional bee wrangler, Gary trained bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits include “Fried Green Tomatoes”; appearances on the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states. He once trained bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small sponge saturated with his patented artificial nectar. He holds the Guinness Book of World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt.
Today the Sacramento area resident continues his love of bees and music, maintaining a website at www.normangary.com/
Like he's done much of his life, Norm Gary will focus on bees and music at the WAS conference. "Norm will talk about bees and his memories of organizing WAS," Mussen said, "and at our banquet, he will provide the background music."
WAS Conference: It's a conference filled with educational topics, networking, field trips, a silent auction, door prizes and fun, Mussen said. Speakers will include bee scientists, beekeepers and industry representatives. Most events will take place in the UC Davis Activities and Recreation Center and surrounding facilities associated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Conference participants will tour the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Häagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven (half-acre bee friendly garden), both part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Mann Lake Ltd., and Z Specialty Foods, both of Woodland.
WAS, a non-profit organization, represents mainly small-scale beekeepers in the western portion of North America, from Alaska and the Yukon to California and Arizona. Beekeepers across North America will gather to hear the latest in science and technology pertaining to their industry and how to keep their bees healthy.
There's still time to register to attend the conference, which is open to all interested persons. Registration is underway at http://www.westernapiculturalsociety.org/2017-conference-registration/ or contact Eric Mussen at email@example.com for more information.
Bees carry pollen in their pollen baskets, but that's not the only place.
"Pollen grains adhere to the bee's hairs, influenced by opposite electrical charges," writes Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, in his popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
Bees comb and brush the pollen into their pollen baskets but, as Gary writes, "Fortunately for the plants, bees aren't 100 percent efficient at transferring the pollen to the pollen baskets. Thousands of pollen grains may still remain on their bodies even after they finish grooming. Bees leave enough pollen behind, depositing it accidentally on female flower structures to ensure effective pollination."
Honey bees collect nectar, pollen, propolis (plant resin) and water to keep the colony humming. Nectar is the colony's carbohydrate (sugar) while pollen is the protein. Pollen also contains such nutrients as minerals, vitamins and fatty substances.
"During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers and consumes about 77 pounds of pollen," Gary writes, adding that a single pollen-foraging bee will average 10 trips per day. "When pollen is abundant, a bee can gather a full load in as little as ten minutes by visiting several dozen flowers," he points out.
If you look closely, sometimes you'll see a bee covered with pollen. The bee below was on a yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) in Napa.
If you're allergic to pollen, these photos just might make you sneeze!
It's nice to remember the honey bee on Valentine's Day. You'll see many Valentine cards inscribed with "Bee My Valentine" and featuring a photo of a bee.
Many of those photos depict a queen bee, the mother of all bees in the hive.
To be a queen, she'll need to be fed royal jelly as a larva. The nurses bees feed the otther larvae a regular worker diet that includes pollen.
"Queen larvae are fed royal jelly throughout larval development, providing a nutritional stimulus that causes them to develop into fully functional females with large ovaries," writes apiculturist Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, in his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
"Queens develop from egg to adult in about 16 days," Gary writes. A queen usually lives about two to three years, but most beekeepers re-queen the colony after a year.
In peak season, a queen bee will lay about 2000 eggs--so that's 2000 mouths to feed.
"A few queens live for as long as two or three years, but old queens are a liability to the colony due to diminished egg-laying capacity, a principal cause of reduced colony populations and reduced honey production," Gary says. "Their performance usually diminishes long before they die, similar to humans."
Gary also says in his book that egg-laying capability "is not the only measure of a queen's performance. Queens produce pheromones that greatly affect the activities, especially foraging activity of workers. Pheromone production diminishes in quality and quantity as queens age."
That's something that the Valentine Day cards don't tell you. Neither do they tell you that after a swarm, the first virgin queen to emerge from the series of newly constructed queen cells in the colony will sting her competitors so she can take over the hive.
Or, as Gary writes, "Rival queens engage in fierce stinging attacks until only one virgin queen remains. Virgin queens also initiate the destruction of capped queen cells containing their younger counterparts and sting them before they can complete development. This is the only time queens ever use their stingers."
Not a sweet thought on Valentine's Day!
We can all learn from the honey bees.
Worker bees--sisters--are like feeding machines. They not only feed each other, but feed the queen and their brothers, the drones.
It's a marvelous sight to see, nectar being passed from one bee to another.
Honey bee expert Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and a beekeeper for more than six decades, says it well in his newly published book: Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
Gary points out that "efficient communication is the fabric of social behavior. It enables the thousands of bees in a colony to function almost as one organism--sometimes referred to as a super- or supra-organism, in which individual bees are compared to the individual cells of an organism."
Food sharing inside a hive, he writes, is "dynamic and continuous."
"A hungry bee says, in her own special way, Can you spare some food? If the behavioral answer is yes, the donor bee spreads her mandibles and discharges a droplet of honey or nectar from her honey stomach onto her mouthparts."
The hungry bee, Gary relates, "senses the food, extends her strawlike proboscis, and sucks up the food."
It's share and share alike.
Too bad the human race doesn't operate as a super organism.