Honey bees and daisies are made for each other.
The white petals and the golden centers seem incomplete without the presence of buzzing bees.
Today we watched a pollen-packin' honey bee, with a pollen load the color of autumn pumpkins, work a daisy.
No matter that it was Friday the 13, supposedly an unlucky day. It was a lucky day for her as she foraged on the daisy and collected pollen her colony. The pollen will provide not only protein, but minerals and vitamins for the developing larvae.
Honey bee expert Norman Gary, emeritus professor of apiculture at the University of California, Davis and the author of Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees, says that during an entire year, "a typical bee colony gathers and consumes 77 pounds of pollen."
That's a lot of pollen! This little bee (below) did her part.
Ever seen a wax builder?
A "real" wax builder?
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and beekeeper-research associate Elizabeth Frost of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, showed us a wax builder last week.
No, two wax builders. Wax-building honey bees.
"The wax reminds me of fish scales," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "I know it has nothing to do with fish scales, but it reminds me of them."
In his excellent book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees, retired UC Davis professor/apiculturist Norman Gary sheds light on wax.
"When workers are about twelve days old, their wax glands begin to secrete tiny flakes of beeswax," wrote Gary, who is also an internationally known bee wrangler. "They chew the wax and fashion it into the architecturally complex honeycomb that functions as a vertical 'floor' where almost all activities inside the hive take place. Newly constructed combs are light yellow in color and are one of nature's most artistic creations."
"As combs age," Gary pointed out, "they become dark brown, owing to the accumulation of pigments from pollen as well as residual cocoons..."
So, there you have it--the making of beeswax.
Makes us wonder who coined the term, "Mind your own beeswax," doesn't it?
It's a honey of a book.
Honey bee expert Norman Gary, emeritus professor of apiculture at the University of California, Davis, 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,” says Gary, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career.
“Beginning beekeepers become confused by conflicted information they find in books written by amateurs or inaccurate advice on the internet.”
In the 174-page book, Gary shares his extensive beekeeping knowledge spanning more than six decades. “It dispels many beekeeping myths and provides new insights based more on science than on tradition.”
For example, “most people have an exaggerated sense of dread concerning bee stings due to a wealth of misleading negative information in the media,” Gary writes. “With more knowledge and firsthand experience, these fears rapidly vanish.”
“An occasional bee sting comes with the territory, comparable to the small risks associated with most pets,” Gary writes. “Cats scratch, dogs bite, horses kick, and birds peck—just to name a few.”
The book is available online on the Amazon, ebay and other websites, and at a number of bee supply companies and bookstores.
The chapters include “To Beekeep or Not to Beekeep,” “The World of Honey Bees,” “The Bees' Home,” “Getting Started,” “Honey Bee Reproduction,” “Activity Inside the Hive,” “Activity Outside the Hive,” “Colony Defense and Sting Prevention,” “How to Manage Colonies,' “Honey and Other Hive Products” and “Fun Things to Do with Bees.”
Gary trains bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits over the last 35 years include 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.
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.
Gary dedicated the book “to everyone who supported my career with bees: beekeepers, professors, scientists, students, research assistants, movie directors, Hollywood stars, photographers and family—especially Mom, who never complained about stray bees or tracked honey inside the kitchen—and to my dog, who led me to the bee tree that started it all.”
Among those contributing to the book were several “bee people” affiliated with the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
Gary, who received a doctorate in apiculture at age 26 from Cornell University in 1959, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1962. He developed and taught the first insect behavior course at UC Davis, and developed and taught a graduate course on the use of television for research and teaching.
A native of Florida, 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, who now lives in the Sacramento area, maintains a website at www.normangary.com/
So you're thinking about becoming a backyard beekeeper...
What considerations are involved?
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist and member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, has just revised his Bee Brief on "Getting Started in Beekeeping," posted on the department's website.
"One of your most important considerations," Mussen says, "is the safety of family members and neighbors." Indeed, someone might be allergic to bee stings and require immediate medical attention.
"The only way to find out is to ask the neighbors, and this will allow you to find out whether or not there is serious opposition to your keeping bees in the neighborhood," Mussen says.
Among the other considerations:
1. Over how much of the year will nectar and pollens be available to the bees? Will you have to feed the bees to ensure their survival?
2. Over how much of the year will water be available to the bees? They need it every day.
3. What will the bees be flying over to get their food and water? They defecate in flight and bee feces can damage finishes on cars and leave colored spots on everything below them. Also, will they be flying across a pedestrian, bicycle or equestrian pathway? If so, they have to be encouraged to gain altitude quickly by installing fencing or solid, tall plantings near the hives.
4. Is the apiary accessible year around? Flooding at or near the apiary site is the usual problem.
5. Try to avoid low spots. They hold cold, damp air for prolonged periods.
6. Try to avoid hilltops. They tend to be windy.
Mussen goes on to talk about beekeeping equipment, costs, knowledge of diseases, beekeeping journals, and the "bible" on honey bees, the 1324-page book: The Hive and the Honey Bee.
It's a good idea to join a local beekeeping organization and get tips from the veterans.
Beginning beekeeping books? Mussen points out that Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, recently published a 167-page book, The Backyard Beekeeper, and that UC Davis emeritus professor Norman Gary (and bee wrangler) has written a beekeeping book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist, due out in November or December.
There's a wealth of information out there to help you get started.
Gary, who received his doctorate in entomology (apiculture) from Cornell University, served as a professor at the University of California, Davis for 32 years, retiring in 1994.
Now 76, he's been a beekeeper for 62 years and a researcher for more than three decades. He’s published more 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and four book chapters.
His research on honey bees is well known. Among his accomplishments: he invented a magnetic retrieval capture/recapture system for studying the foraging activities of bees, documenting the distribution and flight range in the field.
He's also well known as a "bee wrangler"--he trains bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits over the last 35 years include 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.
Gary will appear Thursday, Sept. 16 on a History Channel show wearing 75,000 bees. The show, part of Stan Lee’s “Super Humans,” is scheduled to be broadcast at 10 p.m., Pacific Time (Channel 64 for local Comcast viewers in the Davis area).
Host-presenter Daniel Browning Smith has billed him as “the human bee hive” and will explore bee behavior and the science behind the bees.
A crew from England filmed Gary in mid-May at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis; at Rick Schubert’s Bee Happy Apiaries in Vacaville-Winters; and then in a UC Davis open field where the 75,000 bees clustered his entire body.
“That’s about 20 pounds, depending upon how much honey or sugar syrup they have consumed,” Gary said. “A hungry bee weighs approximately 90 mg and within a minute of active ingestion she can increase her weight to 150 mgs!”
We watched the entire process. Amazing. Simply amazing.
“Bees are not inclined to sting if they are well fed—happy and content—and are ‘under the influence’ of powerful synthetic queen bee odors—pheromones—which tend to pacify them,” Gary said.
Bees are attracted to pheromones and they cluster on drops of pheromones he places on himself. While at UC Davis, he formulated a pheromone solution that is very effective in controlling bee behavior.
Gary (check out his website) 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 World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt.
During his career, Norman Gary has worn many hats, including hobby beekeeper, commercial beekeeper, deputy apiary inspector in New York, honey bee research scientist and entomology professor, adult beekeeping education teacher, and author.
His book for beginning beekeepers, “The Honey Bee Hobbyist,” is to be published in early December by Bow Tie Press.
Don't be too surprised if he also writes one on bee wrangling.
The next generation can learn a lot from him.