"Pollination and Protecting Pollinators" is a 51-minute documentary by Washington State University (WSU) Cooperative Extension that explores how valuable honey bees are, why they're crucial, and what we need to do to protect them.
County Director Timothy Lawrence of Island County, WSU Extension, served as the co-executive producer of the documentary, as well as the writer and the primary narrator.
The Whidbey News-Times, in its May 23, 2010 edition, described Lawrence as an expert on honey bee health:
"Tim Lawrence has the credentials of an old-school extension services director, with a master's degree in rural sociology, a doctorate in environmental sciences and 20 years of experience working with extension programs in three states."
Some background: Tim and his wife, noted WSU bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, were formerly based at the University of California, Davis, where Cobey served as the manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Together they operated a commercial queen production business, Vaca Valley Apiaries, in Vacaville, Solano County.
But back to the documentary.
You'll learn about pollen, nectar and how pollen is transferred. You'll learn why honey bees are considered the best of all the pollinators but why honey bees are not the "best pollinators for some crops" and why.
You'll learn about almond pollination, along with many of the other crops that require bee pollination, including apples, cherries, plums, blueberries and cranberries. No bees? No almonds. No bees? No cranberries.
You'll learn who developed the Langstroth Hive and why it's important. Hint: the Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth (1810-1895) discovered "bee space." You'll learn what "bee space" is.
You'll learn what Moses Quinby of New York did. Hint: Quinby (1810-1875) is considered the first commercial beekeeper in the United States. You'll learn how many hives he maintained in the Mohawk Valley region of New York.
You'll learn why Lawrence says "we won't starve if bees disappear."
And finally, you'll learn what you can do to help the bees.
"Do your part and we can all do this together," Lawrence says. Good advice. And timely advice as we begin the new year.
You can watch the video at https://vimeo.com/146957716.
We first met Sheridan Miller, 11, of Mill Valley when she visited the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, to give $733 to bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now of Washington State University.
Young Sheridan, concerned about the plight of the bees, began raising money for bee research at age 10. This included selling jars of honey, baked goods featuring honey, beeswax candles, olive oil, soap and a self-penned booklet about the plight of honey bees.
At the time, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, was the interim chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (later to become the Department of Entomology and Nematology).
“It's very thoughtful and generous of a little girl to think of the plight of the honey bees and to raise funds for research,” Kimsey said. “We are overwhelmed.”
Said Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976 and now retired: “I really appreciate the fact that so many members of the general public have become concerned about the plight of honey bees. I am particularly impressed by individuals such as Sheridan who have devoted so much time and effort in really trying to improve the health and longevity of the honey bees.”
Then in October 2009 at the opening of the department's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that supports the Laidlaw bees and serves as an educational resource, the officials honored Sheridan and her family. Sheridan's name is engraved on donor plaque in the garden.
Fast forward to today. Sheridan is now a high school senior and yes, she's still raising funds for Cobey's bee research. She has raised more than $5000. See WSU article.
In the WSU article, Sheridan's father, Craig, a Bay Area lawyer, is quoted as saying: “Sue has been generous with her time and her gratitude toward Sheridan, She has instilled confidence in Sheridan and an incredible sense of pride. I guess an organization could simply send a thank-you note for a donation. Sue, on the other hand, sent friendship, knowledge, encouragement–and even bees!”
Sheridan Miller's enthusiasm for bees now extends to her becoming a beekeeper. Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, a former volunteer at the Laidlaw facility and a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association, has worked with Sheridan for the past four years. He set up her hives and is teaching her how to care for and manage bees.
And, Cobey and Fishback continue to answer Sheridan's questions. Meanwhile, Fishback also shares his bee expertise with students in area classrooms.
Cobey and her fellow WSU researchers are working to build a better bee. Their research includes importing germplasm (honey bee semen) from Europe and crossing it with domestic breeding stocks to create healthier stock.
Sheridan hasn't decided on what college to attend or her major, but Cobey and Fishback hope that maybe it has something to do with bees.
"Sheridan is amazing," said Cobey, who traveled to Mill Valley a couple of years ago to participate in one of Sheridan's bee research fundraisers and "to talk bees."
If you're interested in helping Sherican help the bees, access the Go Fund Me account.
Sheridan is the human equivalent of a worker bee.
It may have flown hundreds of miles from the Pacific Northwest, and Washington State University entomologist David James is eager to know where you found it.
James, an associate professor at Washington State University, studies the migration routes and overwintering sites of the Pacific Northwest Monarch population, which are thought to overwinter primarily in coastal California but also in central Mexico. He spearheads a Monarch-tagging project in which volunteers--primarily inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla--rear and release the butterflies.
“There are currently more than 2000 monarchs (Danaus plexippus) in the Northwest that are carrying tags and many of these I have good reason to believe are in the general Sacramento to San Francisco area," James said this week.
“Last Friday, Oct. 10, one of our tagged Monarchs was seen near San Mateo--this one was tagged 10 days earlier in Applegate, southern Oregon. It had flown 330 miles! Then a few weeks ago (Sept. 27) another was seen at Glen Ellen, Calif. This one had flown a whopping 600-plus miles from Yakima in central Washington."
James explained that “we have very little data to support the notion that they all fly to coastal California for overwintering. Before our project there was just a single tagged Monarch from Washington recovered in California. Recent observational evidence suggests that some PNW Monarchs fly in a more southerly-south-easterly direction, away from California and we speculate these may end up in Mexico! We have had one tag to date that supports this idea...a monarch released at Walla Walla turned up at Brigham City in Utah.”
Because the summer Monarch population in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho is so small, James and his team have had to resort to mass breeding of Monarchs for tagging.
“We obtain wild females in Washington and rear their progeny,” the entomologist said. “Much of the rearing is done by inmates at Walla Walla Penitentiary.” He described it as “a very successful program for the butterflies and the prisoners! “
James is also increasingly using citizen scientists to rear and tag as well. See more details of recent recoveries and information about the program at the program's Facebook page.
You don't need a professional camera to capture an image. James said that "the two California recoveries we have had so far were both confirmed by cell phones or regular cameras! This technology definitely aids recoveries. It's so easy to take a high quality 'snap' that can be used to determine the tag details."
“I am confident there are a number of tagged Monarchs currently in your area," James told us. "We are actually still releasing them here in Washington, so the opportunity to see one will persist for a few weeks yet. “
He figures they are "likely heading to the overwintering sites at Bolinas, Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove--maybe further south as well.”
For more information about the project, see WSU's Monarch Butterfly news story.
Cobey, former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, and now with Washington State University (WSU), is an international authority on instrumental insemination. She's perfected and taught the specialized technique of instrumental insemination for more than three decades.
Based on Whidbey Island, Wash., Cobey maintains the New World Carniolan Closed Population Breeding Program, now in its 32rd generation. Her independent research program focuses on the post-insemination maintenance of queens and the selection of behavioral traits at the colony level.
Cobey currently coordinates the WSU collaborative stock improvement and maintenance program, partnering with California queen producers. A focus is the incorporation of germplasm (sperm) collected from Old World European honey bees into domestic breeding stocks to enhance U.S. honey bees. Much has been written about the germplasm repository established at WSU.
The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Cobey presents her work nationally and internationally at numerous conferences and seminars, and publishes extensively in trade journals and professional peer-reviewed publications. Her credentials include the former management of several bee research labs, including those at UC Davis and Ohio State University. She has also worked at the USDA Honey Bee Lab, Baton Rouge, and in commercial queen production in Florida and California. Cobey studied with Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., for whom the UC Davis research facility is named. She founded and operated a queen production business, Vaca Valley Apiaries, in northern California (Vacaville, Solano County).
Sue Cobey is world renowned for her work in trying "to build a better bee." With colleagues, she collects drone semen throughout Europe and deposits it in Washington State University's honey bee germplasm repository, aka "the world's first bee sperm bank." Cobey works closely with entomologist Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the WSU Department of Entomology.
Cobey is renowned, too, for teaching courses on queen bee insemination and queen bee-rearing courses. She draws students from all over the world, and there's always, always, a waiting list.
We first met Sue in May 2007 when she began managing the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis (she's now based at WSU).
You won't find anyone, anywhere, more passionate about honey bees or the need for diversity. Or the need to protect them. In October 2010, she told us that her overall goal "is to improve colony health to supply the critical and demanding need for pollination of the nation's agricultural crops."
Reporter Joel Millman of the Wall Street Journal successfully captures Cobey's passion.
Cobey talks about queen bee insemination, why bees are in trouble, and why the United States needs to unplug the genetic bottleneck. Honey bees, you see, are not natives. European colonists brought them to what is now the United States in 1622. Indeed, honey bees didn't arrive in California until 1853.
Cobey is especially fond of the subspecies, the Carniolans, originating from Slovenia. But she also works with Caucasians from the country of Georgia, and the Italians, the most common bee reared in the United States. To paraphrase Will Rogers, she's never found a bee she didn't like.
We are continually asked if Cobey still offers queen bee insemination classes. Yes, she does, but they're small, private classes. She will offer the classes in July and August. She also plans to teach a queen-rearing class at Mt. Vernon, Wash.. Dates not set. (She can be reached at email@example.com)
Meanwhile, Cobey is working her hives on Whidbey Island and doing research at WSU. And enjoying every minute of it.
The Queen Bee of the Queen Bees--that she is.