If you've ever watched honey bees work the blossoms, you'll probably see them packing pollen in their pollen baskets and cleaning their tongue as they buzz from flower to flower.
Pollen is protein, and nectar, carbohydrates. Worker bees collect both, plus water and propolis (plant resin) for their colony.
"Pollen in the plant world is the equivalent of sperm in the animal world," writes UC Davis emeritus professor Norm Gary in his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees. "Fertilization and growth of seeds depend upon the transfer of pollen from the male flower parts (anthers) to the receptive female parts (stigmas). For many species, such as grains and nuts, pollination occurs by airborne pollen that is produced in great quantity and characterized by very small, lightweight pollen grains. Airborne pollen causes most human allergies."
That's what he calls "Pollen 101."
"Inexperienced foragers quickly learn the most efficient movements to dislodge pollen grains from the anthers," writes Gary, who spent 32 years in the academic world of teaching, research and public service and continues to be a professional bee wrangler. "This frequently involves the use of their tongues and mandibles in licking and scraping the anthers, which slightly moistens the pollen."
"After becoming coated in pollen grains, the bees meticulously brush pollen from the body hairs with the comblike hairs on their legs. This process gradually transfers the pollen to the hind legs, where it accumulates as two 'pellets,' adhering to the outer surface of the pollen baskets on their hind legs."
A pollen-collector can collect a full load in about 10 minutes, Gary says. Number of pollen-collecting trips a bee can make in a day? Ten is typical.
Gary, who has amassed more than six decades of beekeeping experience, marvels at how the bee transfers pollen from its body to its pollen basket. It's "choreography that almost defies description," he writes.
The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, and its adjacent honey bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, received an international shot of publicity when “My Extreme Animal Phobia” aired last Friday on the Animal Planet Channel.
And, if you missed it, it is scheduled to be broadcast again on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 10 p.m. (Sacramento area).
“It is a story about a man who is extremely afraid of bees,” said apiculturist/professional bee wrangler Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. “He is treated successfully by various exposures to bees and consultation with Sacramento psychologist Robin Zazio.”
Although Gary played a central role in the treatment of the man’s phobia, he did not appear in the program.
But his trained bees did. And so did views of the Laidlaw sign, the bee yard, the haven, a bee observation hive, and some of the art work that graces the haven. (Plus some photos, including a feral honey bee colony, from yours truly.)
Gary, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career, trains bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials.
The Animal Planet show prominently featured the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis, and she also created the six-foot-long bee sculpture in the half-acre haven. The UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, co-founded and co-directed by Billick and entomologist Diane Ullman, coordinated all the art work in the haven, which opened to the public on Sept.11, 2010.
Also quite visible on the TV show: the two columns of painted bee boxes that grace the entrance to the garden, and the native bee mural on the tool shed.
By the way, Entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor of entomology at UC Davis and an associate dean in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, now has a new title: Fellow of the Entomological Society of America (ESA). She received the honor Monday from the 6000-member ESA at its meeting in Reno. The ESA singles out a maximum of 10 persons for the Fellow award each year.
The bees have it,
The Beez Kneez, that is.
The Beez Kneez, a Sacramento-based band led by Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, will reunite for one last performance on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at the Straw Hat Pizza, 2929 Mather Field Road, Rancho Cordova.
The group, which performed as a seven-piece band in the Sacramento area from 1995 until Oct. 17, 2004, will entertain from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
“Our first performance was at the original Shakey’s Pizza (57th and J streets,” Gary recalled. “Shakey Johnson was there! We were the last band to perform at Shakey's. A big fire destroyed this jazz landmark on Jan. 8, 1996.”
“Guess our hat jazz reached the ignition point,” Gary quipped.
“Over the years we had a super bunch of faithful fans, and we miss you. Since we disbanded, many of our faithful Beez Kneez fans have repeatedly requested more performances.”
So there’s just one more—Oct. 26.
All surviving members of the original cast will be there. (Tom Tucker is deceased.)
Gary promises that “we’ll play our most popular songs that we recorded on two CDs.”
They include "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."
Gary is the author of a newly published book on beginning beekeeping titled “Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.”
“Keeping bees is far more challenging than caring for common pets,” said Gary, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career.
And bees? One last time for the Beez Kneez.
Honey bee foragers collect nectar, pollen, water and propolis.
Propolis? What's propolis?
It's that sticky plant resin or "goo" that the bees use to seal small spaces in the hive. It's also known as "bee glue." When you see beekeepers using their hive tools to pry apart the frames, they're confronting that glue.
Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and author of the newly published Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees, writes: "Bees use it as a caulking material to seal small cracks and crevices inside the hive, especially at the joints between chambers, making it difficult to separate hive chambers that are glued tightly together. In warm weather, propolis is sticky and pliable. In cold weather, it’s hard and brittle.”
“A few bees in each colony collect propolis during warm weather when it is pliable enough to manipulate," Gary continues. "This natural bee glue is so sticky that other bees need to assist the propolis forager during the unloading process. It’s amazing how they can manipulate it without becoming hopelessly entangled and stuck together, but they seem to manager just fine."
Bees also use propolis to narrow the entrance to their hive, or encase a large, immovable object in their colony--such as a dead mouse or lizard. Basically, they remove the smell by covering it up.
Humans also use it; it's highly marketable.
In Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees by Malcom T. Sanford and Richard E. Bonney, the authors write: “Research in human medicine has shown propolis to be an antimicrobial agent, an emollient, immunomodulator, dental anti-plaque agent and anti-tumor growth agent. Studies also indicate that it may be effective in treating skin burns.”
It's also used for such products as vehicles waxes and musical instrument varnishes. Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) reportedly favored it for the instruments he crafted.
But have you ever seen a bee carrying a load of propolis?
Sticky, sticky stuff! Especially when temperatures hit 100 degrees.
It's spectacular. It's awe-inspiring. It's a work of art.
And it's home to a feral honey bee colony in Vacaville.
A Vacaville resident contacted us awhile back about a feral honey bee hive built 30 feet off the ground in a Modesto ash tree.
The bees anchored the comb among the limbs so well that it survived the winter storms of 2010-11. Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet...nor colony collapse disorder...
It's still viable. Bees forage in the gardens, tend to their brood, and make honey.
Noted apiculturist Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, and author of a newly published book, "Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees," estimated that the feral bees probably built it in the spring of 2010. Leaves hid it from public view until winter.
Bee folks at UC Davis speculated that the heavy rains and severe winds would topple it. Not so. It's still going strong.
Some cities, including Vacaville, have ordinances prohibiting bee swarms or feral bee colonies. If bees build it, the homeowner/tenant must remove it. (6.24.130 Wild swarms of bees. "No person shall keep, maintain, or allow to remain on any property, lot or parcel of land under his or her ownership or control any wild swarms of bees.")
It's easy to see why a city would pass such an ordinance--especially in areas with Africanized bees, which are more defensive than the European/western honey bee.
With this colony in Vacaville, however, the bees are minding their own business and the neighbors don't mind at all. (Note: the homeowner is pursuing removal, but wants to save the bees.)
Meanwhile, it's a colony to bee-hold.