It's not every beekeeper who can say they've owned--and used--a smoker for 70 years.
"Bee Man" Norman Gary can.
And he displayed it at the Western Apicultural Society's 40th annual conference, held recently at UC Davis.
Gary, who initiated and spearheaded the founding of WAS while a professor of apiculture at UC Davis, told the 150 conference participants that he's owned the smoker since age 13. And, holding it up, he promised that it would be auctioned off at the society's 50th conference. "But I won't be here."
Gary, 84, a resident of the Sacramento area, was introduced as a noted apiculturist, scientist, author, bee wrangler and musician. "His 70-year career with bees includes hobby and commercial beekeeping, 32 years as an entomology professor teaching apiculture at UC Davis, more than 40 years as a bee research scientist and more than 100 publications," WAS president Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, told the crowd.
Mussen added that Gary wrote the popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist; The Care and Keeping of Bees, and "he spent 40 years as a consultant and bee stunt coordinator for 17 movies, 70 TV shows and six TV commercials."
Taking the podium, Norm Gary related that he co-founded the society with Mussen, newly arrived at UC Davis in 1976 with a doctorate in entomology from the University of Minnesota; and postdoctoral fellow Becky Westerdahl, now an Extension nematologist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Chronicling the history of WAS, Gary recalled how much he enjoyed attending the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) meetings as a graduate student and post doc at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and thought "Why not a Western Apicultural Soicety?"
"I was a young man then," he said, "but I don't remember being young."
Gary, the oldest of five children, spent his childhood in a small, central Florida farming community known as Oak (near Ocala). Insects, especially honey bees, have fascinated him since age four.
Gary singled out four important points about honey bees "that you should all remember."
- Bees feed us. "Bees are responsible for one-third of our food supply."
- Honey bees are never "aggressive," and "don't ever use that word; bees are 'defensive' when they are defending their colonies. They defend their nest by stinging. Bees foraging for flowers--they will not sting you unless you step on one."
- "Bees do not ever, ever regurgitate. They suck up liquid nectar and it goes into a special storage chamber, not the stomach. When they get back to their hive, they unload it." In other words, honey is not vomit or barf, he emphasized.
- "Honey bees are real bees. Why do you insist on spelling 'honeybee' as one word? Honey bee is two words."
Case in Point: Honey Bee or Honey Bees? Richard Levine, former communications manager for the Entomological Society of America (ESA), said it well in a piece published in the May 6, 2014 edition of Entomology Today:
"The reason for the discrepancy is that entomologists use two words if a common name accurately describes the order to which a particular insect belongs. For example, all true flies belong to the order Diptera, so true fly names will be spelled using two words by entomologists — house fly, horse fly, pigeon fly, or stable fly, for example. However, despite their names, dragonflies and butterflies are NOT true flies — their orders are Odonata and Lepidoptera, respectively — so they are spelled as one word.
"The same goes for 'bed bug' or 'stink bug,'” both of which are true bugs in the order Hemiptera, which is why they are spelled as two words in the entomological community," Levine wrote. "However, insects that are not in the order Hemiptera, like billbugs or sowbugs, are spelled as one word.
"Likewise, honey bees and bumble bees are true bees in the order Hymenoptera, so entomologists spell them as two words, even though the dictionaries and newspapers spell them as one."
"Bee Man" Norman Gary could not agree more.
The insects he loves--the insects that have fascinated him for 70 years and counting--are "honey bees," not "honeybees."
This is the week of the 40th annual Western Apicultural Society's conference, set Sept. 5-8 at the University of California, Davis. The non-profit group, founded at UC Davis to meet the educational needs of small-scale beekeepers primarily throughout the western United States, will meet in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) on campus.
It's a conference filled with educational topics, networking, field trips, a silent auction, door prizes and just plain "bee" fun, says honey bee guru and Western Apicultural Society (WAS) co-founder Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who is serving his sixth term as president.
He's been bee-sy. Ditto the delivery services to the third floor of Briggs Hall. Tomorrow the packages will be trucked over to the ARC, and the anticipation continues.
The newest addition to the conference schedule is the "Kids and Bees" program, set from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Sept. 5 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis campus. The haven is the department's half-acre educational bee garden. "Bee Girl" Sarah Red-Laird of Ashland, Ore., program director of the American Beekeeping Federation's "Kids and Bees" Program and executive director of Bee Girl will be "borrowing" the site as part of a grant from the American Beekeeping Federation's Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees. First-graders from Peregrine School, Davis, have signed up for the interactive educational program involving bees and beekeeping, honey, beeswax and bee habitat.
Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, and staff research associates Bernardo Niño and Charley Nye of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility/UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will staff four of the work stations.
As for the Bee Girl organization, Sarah describes it as a "nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees, their flowers, and our food system." She serves as the Oregon director of the Western Apicultural Society, a member of the New York Bee Sanctuary Advisory Board, and the regional representative to the Southern Oregon Beekeepers' Association. She is also a "Mountainsmith Brand Ambeesador." (As of Monday afternoon, she was seeking several more volunteers. Those interested can contact her firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-708-1127.) See her work on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@sarahBeeGirl). Her hashtag is #loveyourbees.
Sarah describes her Bee Girl organization as a "nonprofit with a mission to inspire and empower communities to conserve bees, their flowers, and our food system." She serves as the Oregon director of the Western Apicultural Society, a member of the New York Bee Sanctuary Advisory Board, and the regional representative to the Southern Oregon Beekeepers' Association. She is also a "Mountainsmith Brand Ambeesador." (As of Monday afternoon, she was seeking several more adult volunteers to help out at the stations. Those interested can contact her email@example.com or 541-708-1127.) You can see her work--and her passion--on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@sarahBeeGirl). She's known by the hashtag, #loveyourbees.
And she does. The logo adorns her bee suit.
Topics at the WAS meeting? They range from Africanized honey bees to top bar hives to how to keep your bees healthy. See schedule. Eric Mussen, who offers 10 reasons why one should attend the conference (see Bug Squad blog), may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
That will be the topic of honey bee guru Lawrence "Larry" Connor of Kalamazoo, Mich., when he presents a special short course during the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), University of California, Davis.
Connor will present the alternative short course, "Keeping Your Bees Alive and Growing," at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 6 for a $50 extra fee, announced WAS president Eric Mussun, Extension apiculturist emeritus.
Said Connor: "We will start with the concepts in Two and a Half Hives: starting with two colonies of bees and making a nucleus the first season. We will show you how to harvest the bees and brood for a nucleus colony. The same system will for anti-swarm management after your first season. We will spend time looking at nucleus management to cycle new, mite-tolerant queens into your beekeeping, including when and how to establish these hives and prepare them for the winter."
He adds: "We will look at the general nature of bee population management—when to grow a hive and what to do when they fail to thrive. We will end with a discussion about establishing and maintaining a sustainable apiary—keeping your bees alive and thriving year to year. If we have time, we will work on your reading list in beekeeping."
A native of Kalamazoo, Connor holds a doctorate in entomology from Michigan State University, and worked as an Extension entomologist in apiculture at The Ohio State University from 1972 to 1976 before accepting a position in Labelle, Fla., to run a new bee breeding program, Genetic Systems, Inc., the world's first mass production facility for the instrumental inseminated queen honey bees.
Connor left Florida in 1980 and began writing books with Wicwas Press LLC, a company he helped found and now owns. He has published more than a dozen titles dealing with bees, beekeeping, queen rearing and pollination. He regularly contributes to Bee Culture and the American Bee Journal magazines, addressing queen and drone biology and management and beekeeper interviews. He is also an accomplished photographer, artist and actor.
Connor will be one of some 16 speakers, ranging from California to Canada, to address the WAS conference. WAS originated at UC Davis.
More information on the conference is available from the WAS website or by contacting Eric Mussen at email@example.com. WAS, open to all interested persons, is a non-profit educational organization, geared for small-scale beekeepers in the western United States.
The conference takes place in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) and also will include tours to the Department of Entomology and Nematology's Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and its adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, as well as sojourns to Woodland to see the Mann Lake LTD facility (beekeeping supplies), and Z Specialty Food.
"The speakers are from throughout the country and also from Canada," Mussen says. Among the speakers: Kim Flottum of Medina, Ohio, editor of Bee Culture; Les Crowder of Austin, Texas, author of Top-Bar Beekeeping; Gene Brandi of Los Banos, president of the American Beekeeping Federation; Larry Connor of Kalamazoo, Mich., author and beekeeper; Rod Scarlett, executive director, Canadian Honey Council, and Slava Strogolov, chief executive officer of Strong Microbials Inc., Milwaukee.
UC Davis will be well represented, Mussen points out, noting that "we have widespread and varied expertise covering everything from honey bees and native bees to honey tasting and bee gardening."
Four UC Davis faculty members will address the crowd on Thursday morning, Sept. 7:
- Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño will speak on “Impact of Varroa on Honey Bee Reproductive Castes): Where Will the Research Lead Us?” at at 8:30 a.m. The three reproductive castes are the queen and worker bee (female), and drone (male).
- Associate professor Brian Johnson will speak on “Geographical Distribution of Africanized Bees in California” 9 a.m., He will show “the results of a genotyping study of bees caught from across California showing the current distribution of Africanized Honey Bees in our state."
- Distinguished emeritus professor Robbin Thorp, a native pollinator specialist, will discuss “Life Cycles of Commonly Encountered Native Bee Genera" at 10:30 a.m. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
- Professor Neal Williams, a pollination ecologist, will discuss “Known and Potential of Native Bees in Crop Pollination” at 11 a.m.
It's good to see native bees sharing space with honey bees at the conference and to see Neal Williams and Robbin Thorp in the line-up. Williams, promoted to full professor this year, will discuss his applied research, which, he explains, "addresses the integration of wild and managed bees for pollination of diverse agricultural crops including seed production, row crops and orchards." Williams adds: "This research addresses as series inter-related questions. Under what contexts, in terms of local management and landscape context, can native pollinators provide sufficient pollination for different crops? How can we enhance habitat and diversify agricultural systems to promote managed and wild bees? Do pollinators like honey bees and wild bees interact in ways to increase the overall effectiveness of crop pollination? The answers to these questions helps alleviate the stress placed on honey bees and also informs ways to more sustainably manage agricultural systems to promote biodiversity and production."
The WAS conference also will feature a trip on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 7 to the UC Davis bee biology facility, appropriately located on Bee Biology Road. That's when several UC Davis faculty or staff, along with beekeeper/scientist Randy Oliver of Grass Valley, will staff a total of five education stations from 1 to 4 p.m. at either the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility or the bee garden. Staff research associate Bernardo Niño will discuss various beehive iterations; Randy Oliver will cover how to determine various levels of nosema and varroa infestations; Brian Johnson will explain how to prepare honey bees for the molecular study of Africanized honey bees; and Christine Casey, staff manager of the department's half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, will discuss what to plant in a bee garden and how to maintain it.
In addition, Casey will lead a tour of the haven at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. “The haven is a unique outdoor museum designed to educate visitors about bees and the plants that support them," Casey says. "Tour participants will see some of our 85 bee and 200 plant species, learn about our outreach and research programs, and gain ideas for their own bee gardens."
On Friday, Sept. 8, Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen will moderate a panel on “Pesticide Toxicity Testing with Adult and Immature Honey Bees.” The panel will convene at 9:15 a.m. Then at 1:30 on Friday, assistant professor Rachel Vannette of UC Davis will discuss “Variation in Nectar Quality Influence Pollinator Foraging." She studies floral nectar chemistry and microbiology and examines how these characteristics of flowers mediate interactions between plants and pollinators
Other UC Davis highlights involve honey tasting and 40-year-old memories:
Honey Tasting: Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, UC Davis, will lead a moderated honey tasting at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The event is titled “Taste the Honey Flavors of the West: How Understanding the Nuances of your Honey Can Help You Market your Perfect Sweet.” Said Harris: "Basically, I plan to discuss the diversity and life styles of non-Apis bees to show how different most are from honey bees."
40-Year-Old Memories: The founders of WAS will reminisce on "how it all began" from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The organization, founded at UC Davis, was the brainchild of Norm Gary, then professor of apiculture (now emeritus), who served as the founding WAS president. Assisting him were Eric Mussen, then an Extension apiculturist, who accepted the office of vice president; and postdoctoral fellow Becky Westerdahl, now the Extension nematologist in the department, elected secretary-treasurer.
More information on the conference, including the complete schedule, is available from the WAS website or contact Eric Mussen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration is underway at http://www.westernapiculturalsociety.org/2017-conference-registration/
A partial solar eclipse is about to happen in Vacaville, Calif.
I am watching the insects: the honey bees nectaring on the African blue basil, an orbweaver spider munching on its prey, an assassin bug poised on a tropical milkweed, and a praying mantis lurking beneath a showy milkweed leaf.
Today (Aug. 21) is the long-awaited Great American Eclipse. The totality path will begin at 9 a.m. in Oregon, and stretch across the country to South Carolina.
Hmm, I wonder, how will the bugs in our pollinator garden react to a partial eclipse?
It won't be drastic, I predict. And it wasn't.
The partial eclipse in Vacaville began at 9:02 a.m. and reached its maximum (70 percent coverage of the sun) at 10:16. It ended at 11:38 am., a duration of two hours and 36 minutes.
The bees foraged before, during and after the eclipse, primarily on the African blue basil, which is usually covered with bees. During the height of the eclipse, however, as the skies darkened, a little more than half remained. After the eclipse, when the temperature increased and the wind ceased, the number of bees returned to normal.
"Honey bees tend to act like night is falling if the eclipse takes out quite a bit of the sunlight," says honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus and president of the Western Apicultural Society. "Then they 'wake back up' afterwards."
Despite the eclipse, the spider kept eating its prey. (Sure hope it wasn't that blue dragonfly, Libellula luctuosa, "the widow skimmer" I saw yesterday.) The praying mantis kept lurking. The assassin bug raised its antennae. And the bees--although fewer of them--just kept foraging.
Two stink bugs opted to procreate on the bluebeard, Caryopteris x clandonensis. A Gulf Fritillary fluttered by and stopped to sip nectar from the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). The assassin bug crawled higher on the milkweed, poised for an ambush.
The spider tugged its prey beneath a leaf, abandoning its web. Well, that's that, I thought.
Not so. The sticky web snagged a honey bee while the spider was polishing off its first prey. Okay, spider, you've already had your breakfast. You don't need a second helping. Not today."
I freed the struggling bee and off it buzzed to forage another day.
A partial eclipse, but a full escape...