- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
He's been beekeeping and playing the clarinet for 69 years.
Meet Norman Gary of Citrus Heights, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology who retired in 1994 after a 32-year academic career. As an apiculturist and researcher, he authored scores of peer-reviewed publications, and most recently wrote a how-to-book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees.
Gary, now 83, doesn't keep bees anymore. “I had to give up hobby beekeeping in 2015," he said, "because the equipment is too heavy for me to lift."
Now he feeds wild bees in his yard like some folks do wild birds. And he feeds the birds, too. "They share feeders with no problem," he told us. "Been this way for a million years or more!"
Determined to help bees thrive and survive, Gary feeds them with his patented artificial nectar. "I make it with ordinary table sugar … one part sugar and four parts water. Then I add one tiny drop for flavoring, such as anise, that provides a fragrance that attracts bees. Almost any flavor will work fine … peppermint, lavender, etc. My artificial nectar is as good, maybe better, than natural nectar. At least the bees respond 100 percent! People don't realize that table sugar (sucrose) is perhaps the purest natural product on the market. It is identical to the sucrose found in natural nectar."
During his professional bee wrangler career spanning four decades, Gary trained bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. Among his credits: 18 films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes”; more than 70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; six commercials, and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states. Mainly for educational purposes but also for entertainment, he launched the highly sophisticated Thriller Bee Shows, performing more than 100 times in three western states, with venues that included the California State Fair. He drew widespread acclaim for wearing a head-to-toe suit of clustered bees while "Buzzin' with his Bee-Flat Clarinet."
Gary once trained bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small sponge saturated with his patented artificial nectar. His holds the Guinness World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt.
He's also the guy behind the "bee suit" record in the Guinness World Records; Gary clustered more than 87 pounds of bees on a friend.
Today, as a musician, he plays the clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute. Most of his performances are at senior homes and private parties. He directs and performs with Four for Fun, Mellow Fellas Duo, and the Calamity Jazz Band.
FOUR FOR FUN is considered a "popular 4-piece Dixieland band that plays happy, toe-tapping, upbeat, sing-a-long music that seniors love." The seniors' favorites include "Bill Bailey," "Bourbon Street Parade," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans," "Georgia" and "Just a Little While To Stay Here." Said Gary: "We love to play at senior homes and also for Mardi Gras parties." All the musicians are seniors who have been playing professionally in the Sacramento area for more than 30 years.
MELLOW FELLAS DU0. Norm Gary plays clarinet and sax, and Bill Rowland is the guitarist and vocalist. Many tunes are sing-a-longs that especially delight the seniors. (Hear samples of their music online at www.mellowfellas.com.) "At senior homes where we are regulars, we usually play three or four gigs per year," he said.
CALAMITY JAZZ BAND. Norm Gary also has a Dixieland Jazz quartet that he books locally as the Calamity Jazz Band. The full Calamity Jazz Band is based in Eugene, Ore. "Whenever the two gals (trumpet and bass sax) who lead this band perform in the Sacramento area, I add a banjo player and we instantly have a wonderful band," he enthused. "We've been playing together for around six years at events in Oregon as well as California."
DR. BACH AND THE JAZZ PRACTIONERS. Norm Gary plays sax and clarinet with this band, featured many times in the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee and the Sacramento Music Festival. (See details about the band.) Tonight (Nov. 30) they are performing at the Straw Hat Pizza in Rancho Cordova.
A local television station, KXTV, Channel 10, recently spotlighted him as the "honey bee charmer of Citrus Heights."
Meanwhile, Norm Gary is loving his post-retirement music career, just as he loves bees. And yes, he still has CDs of his Beez Kneez Dixieland band that he retired several years ago. In addition, Gary provides the sound system for what is billed as "the world's only all women banjo band, GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS," directed by his wife.
It's all music to his ears—and so are the bees.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
She's the newly hired honey bee development officer, an Extension-like position, in the state of New South Wales.
Frost left the States last Sunday, Jan. 10. The government position involves working with the commercial beekeeping industry in New South Wales in "course development and training, policy making, and other projects, including the importation of honey bee semen to Australia, and oxytetracycline prescriptions for European Foulbrood treatment, etc." she related.
We first met Liz in 2008 when she joined the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility as the staff research associate for bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, then manager of the facility. Among her many duties, Frost maintained the apiaries and lab facilities, and aided in experiments and instruction in queen rearing and instrumental insemination.
We watched her lead tours with Cobey, now a geneticist-bee breeder at Washington State University; harvest honey; learn to drive the stick-shift bee truck; plant a pollinator garden in front of the Laidlaw facility; engage in a (private) bee bearding activity directed by Cobey; and even install pigeon-control devices on the eaves of the facility.
Frost also hosted the annual "Pi Day" every March 14 for faculty, staff and students at the Laidlaw facility. We all brought pies to celebrate the mathematical constant π (pi).
The Laidlaw facility buzzed with the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication of the Cobey/Frost team.
Frost, who holds a bachelor of arts degree in English and Italian from UC Davis with a minor in entomology, left the Laidlaw facility to join the Bee Informed Partnership, based in College Park, Md. (read her posts), and then headed off to Australia to become a honey bee development officer with the New South Wales government. From California to Australia...and now it's back to Australia...
As a honey bee development officer, she created educational tools for beekeepers in the form of an online Honey Bee Pest and Disease Course, a Queen Bee Breeding book in hard copy and online publication (iBook and EPUB), a bimonthly column (The Frost Report) in the New South Wales Apiarist Association magazine (Honey Bee News), face-to-face courses in queen breeding, and online fact sheets.
About the pest/disease course: "If a beekeeper with one or thousands of colonies wants to learn more about honey bee pests and diseases this course is a valuable, interactive tool with tutorials including videos to supplement the text, and short quizzes," she explained. "In Australia this is a nationally accredited course which awards participants units of competency upon successful completion of assessment tasks."
Her fact sheet on Hygienic Behavior Testing includes step- by-step instructions with illustrations. "Hygienic behavior is a honey bee trait which confers resistance to chalkbrood and American foulbrood (AFB), two serious brood diseases in Australia. AFB is especially serious in Australia considering it is illegal to treat AFB infected hives with oxytetracyline (OTC) as it only masks the symptoms and can contaminate honey. This fact sheet and others produced by New South Wales Dept. of Primary Industry Apiary Technical Officers are located on this site.
She also taught a course on queen bee breeding in Australia with co-worker Doug Somerville. The late Gretchen Wheen, a pioneer in instrumental insemination in Australia, played key roles in establishing two bee breeding programs in Western Australia and the Eastern States (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria) and the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station which enabled safe, legal importation of new honey bee stock. (The course is listed on this site.)
"These products are educational tools for beekeepers worldwide, but are specifically geared toward the Australian beekeeping industry in regard to the subjects of relevant endemic and exotic pests and diseases and seasonal management and floral resources," Frost related. (She also appeared in this news media-produced video: "Frost Spreads the Beekeeping Gospel.")
When her VISA expired, Frost returned to the states and engaged in a number of projects, including a recent presentation to the California State Beekeepers' Association conference. She toyed with other apiculture opportunities in the States, but when the Australian opportunity surfaced, she made a beeline to return.
Liz Frost is excited to be back.
"Beekeeping in the Australian context is fascinating, not only because Varroa is absent in this country," she said. "The wealth of potential floral resources is astounding, giving beekeepers the opportunity to chase honey 12 months of the year. Around 70 to 80 percent of honey produced commercially is derived from eucalyptus and native forests. These stats shouldn't deceive the reader into thinking honey is easily had, however. The most successful honey producers in Australia know their country intimately. Part arborist, part meteorologist, and all beekeeper, they monitor buds on trees years in advance of a flowering event.
"Also to be considered is the fact that, while some native melliferous flora such as Yellow Box and Ironbark are profuse nectar producers in the right conditions, they can be seriously deficient as a pollen resource. This situation makes beekeeper management decisions before and after working such a honey crop vital to prevent colonies from working themselves to death in the absence of incoming and nutritious pollen."