- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology since 1976 and an upcoming retiree, will be "roasted" at the California State Beekeepers' Association conference, to be held Nov 19-21 at Lake Tahoe, Nev.
But someone will be going home with a little piece of him.
Mussen is donating an auction item, a mounted photo of "The Sting," also known as "The Bee Sting Felt Around the World."
What's the story behind the story? It was like this: During a lunch hour a couple of years ago, Mussen and I were walking through the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility when he said: "Kathy, get your camera ready. This bee is about to sting me."
The bee was NOT about to sting him--the bee WAS stinging him. It was one of bee scientist Susan Cobey's Carniolan bees, doing what bees do--defending the hive.
I shot a series of four photos within a second with my Nikon D700, mounted with a 105mm macro lens and a motor drive.
The second photo in the series went on to win best feature photo and the professional skill award in a competition hosted by the international Association for Communication Excellence, a professional organization comprised of communicators, educators and information technologists in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences. The Sacramento Bee picked it up and later selected it one of its top 15 stories of 2012. Huffington Post named it one of the Most Amazing Photos of 2012. More accolades followed: Twister Sifter singled it out as one of the World's Most Perfectly Timed Photos. Along the way, it made "Picture of the Day" on scores of websites. (Bug Squad blogs about this image: The Sting, Perfectly Timed Photos, and The Bee Sting Felt Around the World.)
The copyrighted photo also appears to be one of the most stolen images on the internet. It's gone around the world innumerable times, mostly uncredited or with its copyright ripped off or replaced with someone else's copyright.
Photo aficionados marveled at the "one-of-a-kind" photo of a bee sting in action, with its abdominal tissue trailing. Others said it was Photoshopped. Not! Some said I spent the day torturing bees. Not! I don't kill bees; I photograph them. Some pitied the "poor guy" getting stung and asked how could I be so cruel as not to help him. Not what happened!
Mussen's wife later presented him with a mousepad, a coffee cup and a handmade Christmas ornament of the image. It's quite a conversation piece in Mussen's office on the third floor Briggs Hall. But it won't be for long. Mussen will be vacating his quarters and retiring in June of 2014.
But, back to the California State Beekeepers' Association.
Mussen's colleagues are going to roast him, sure as shootin' (or maybe sure as stingin'). They'll joke about his Buddy Holly glasses in the 1970s, his amicable personality, and his inability to keep in contact via cell phone (he doesn't carry one).
But someone, sure as shootin' (or maybe sure as stingin') is going home with a piece of him.