Just as pesticides, parasites, predators, and a multitude of microorganisms threaten the survival of honey bees, so do hobby beekeepers who are rearing too many colonies for bees to “survive and thrive.”
“Increasing populations of bees can easily ‘overgraze' the resources," says Gary, 85, whose expertise in beekeeping, including professor, scientist, author and professional bee wrangler, spans seven decades. "Excessive competition for limited nectar and pollen sources also threatens hundreds of native bee species, such as bumble bees, that have similar dietary requirements.”
He acknowledges that his chapter on Urban Entomology, “treads on sacred beekeeping ground by proposing a radical change to beekeeping in urban environments.”
But it's time “to recognize the realities of the urban environment and make appropriate changes in beekeeping practices,” he declares.
Gary, a Sacramento-area resident known internationally as “The Bee Man” says that urban environments vary greatly, from the heart of New York City or San Francisco where small residential lots typically have limited vegetation to smaller urban areas that that often have “open countryside within the foraging area of your bees.”
“This is far more than typical hobby beekeepers are harvesting these days,” Gary relates. “It should be obvious that hobby beekeepers are keeping too many colonies in the typical urban environment.”
“Hobby beekeepers typically start out with one or two hives, but that often leads to several more due to their enthusiasm for keeping bees and harvesting more honey and equating the number of hives with elevating their status as beekeepers.”
In his book, published by Fox Chapel Publishing, East Petersburg, Pa., Gary shares his beekeeping knowledge, dispels many beekeeping myths, and provides science-based information. He covers such subjects as “To Beekeep or Not to Beekeep,” “The Bees' Home,” “Reproduction,” “Colony Defense and Sting Prevention” and activities inside and outside the hive.
Gary, who holds a doctorate in entomology from Cornell University, joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 1962, retiring in 1994 after a 32-year academic career. He has authored more than 100 publications, including scientific papers, book chapters and popular articles in beekeeping trade journals.
A 70-year beekeeper--one of the longest in the nation--Gary began keeping bees at age 15 in Florida. His career includes hobby beekeeper, commercial beekeeper, deputy apiary inspector in New York, honey bee research scientist, entomology professor, author, bee wrangler and Guinness World record holder.
During his professional bee wrangler career spanning four decades, “The Bee Man” served as a consultant and bee stunt coordinator for 17 movies, 70 TV shows and six TV commercials. Among his credits: “Fried Green Tomatoes” and appearances with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno on Tonight Shows.
Gary once trained bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small sponge saturated with artificial nectar. His holds the Guinness World record (109 bees inside his closed mouth for 10 seconds) for the stunt. He's also the person behind the "bee suit" record in the Guinness World Records; Gary clustered more than 87 pounds of bees on a friend.
Today, as a musician, he plays the clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute with several groups, and is updating his website, http://www.normangary.com.
No more “Buzzin' with His Bee-Flat Clarinet,” though./span>
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."
In fact, they have for 70 years. Seven decades. Yes, that's how long he's kept bees.
Norm Gary's 70-year career includes both hobby and commercial beekeeping, but you probably know him by his other credentials:
- 32 years as an entomology professor teaching apiculture at UC Davis
- More than 40 years as a bee research scientist with more than 100 publications
- Author of the 174-page popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
- 40 years as a consultant and bee stunt coordinator for 17 movies, 70 TV shows, and 6 TV commercials
There's another side to Norm Gary you may not know. He initiated and spearheaded the founding of the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) and served as its first president.
So when WAS returns Sept. 5-8 to its roots--UC Davis--for its 40th annual conference, Gary will lead a nostalgic discussion on the founding of the organization. The presentation takes place at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 5 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen will join him. Mussen, co-founder and founding vice president of WAS, is currently serving his sixth term as WAS president.
A musician since childhood, Gary plays clarinet (B-flat clarinet!), alto sax, tenor sax and flute either in bands he's organized or with other professional musicians. He's entertained at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee since 1979, wowing the crowds with such tunes as "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."
But back to the bees.
A native of the small farming community of Oak, Fla., 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 joined the UC Davis faculty in 1962 and developed and taught the first insect behavior course at the university. He also developed and taught a graduate course on the use of television for research and teaching. He retired from academic life in 1994, but not from his bees and his music.
A world-renowned professional bee wrangler, Gary trained bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits include “Fried Green Tomatoes”; appearances on the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; 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.
Today the Sacramento area resident continues his love of bees and music, maintaining a website at www.normangary.com/
Like he's done much of his life, Norm Gary will focus on bees and music at the WAS conference. "Norm will talk about bees and his memories of organizing WAS," Mussen said, "and at our banquet, he will provide the background music."
WAS Conference: It's a conference filled with educational topics, networking, field trips, a silent auction, door prizes and fun, Mussen said. Speakers will include bee scientists, beekeepers and industry representatives. Most events will take place in the UC Davis Activities and Recreation Center and surrounding facilities associated with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Conference participants will tour the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Häagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven (half-acre bee friendly garden), both part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Mann Lake Ltd., and Z Specialty Foods, both of Woodland.
WAS, a non-profit organization, represents mainly small-scale beekeepers in the western portion of North America, from Alaska and the Yukon to California and Arizona. Beekeepers across North America will gather to hear the latest in science and technology pertaining to their industry and how to keep their bees healthy.
There's still time to register to attend the conference, which is open to all interested persons. Registration is underway at http://www.westernapiculturalsociety.org/2017-conference-registration/ or contact Eric Mussen at email@example.com for more information.
Bees carry pollen in their pollen baskets, but that's not the only place.
"Pollen grains adhere to the bee's hairs, influenced by opposite electrical charges," writes Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, in his popular book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
Bees comb and brush the pollen into their pollen baskets but, as Gary writes, "Fortunately for the plants, bees aren't 100 percent efficient at transferring the pollen to the pollen baskets. Thousands of pollen grains may still remain on their bodies even after they finish grooming. Bees leave enough pollen behind, depositing it accidentally on female flower structures to ensure effective pollination."
Honey bees collect nectar, pollen, propolis (plant resin) and water to keep the colony humming. Nectar is the colony's carbohydrate (sugar) while pollen is the protein. Pollen also contains such nutrients as minerals, vitamins and fatty substances.
"During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers and consumes about 77 pounds of pollen," Gary writes, adding that a single pollen-foraging bee will average 10 trips per day. "When pollen is abundant, a bee can gather a full load in as little as ten minutes by visiting several dozen flowers," he points out.
If you look closely, sometimes you'll see a bee covered with pollen. The bee below was on a yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) in Napa.
If you're allergic to pollen, these photos just might make you sneeze!
It's nice to remember the honey bee on Valentine's Day. You'll see many Valentine cards inscribed with "Bee My Valentine" and featuring a photo of a bee.
Many of those photos depict a queen bee, the mother of all bees in the hive.
To be a queen, she'll need to be fed royal jelly as a larva. The nurses bees feed the otther larvae a regular worker diet that includes pollen.
"Queen larvae are fed royal jelly throughout larval development, providing a nutritional stimulus that causes them to develop into fully functional females with large ovaries," writes apiculturist Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, in his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.
"Queens develop from egg to adult in about 16 days," Gary writes. A queen usually lives about two to three years, but most beekeepers re-queen the colony after a year.
In peak season, a queen bee will lay about 2000 eggs--so that's 2000 mouths to feed.
"A few queens live for as long as two or three years, but old queens are a liability to the colony due to diminished egg-laying capacity, a principal cause of reduced colony populations and reduced honey production," Gary says. "Their performance usually diminishes long before they die, similar to humans."
Gary also says in his book that egg-laying capability "is not the only measure of a queen's performance. Queens produce pheromones that greatly affect the activities, especially foraging activity of workers. Pheromone production diminishes in quality and quantity as queens age."
That's something that the Valentine Day cards don't tell you. Neither do they tell you that after a swarm, the first virgin queen to emerge from the series of newly constructed queen cells in the colony will sting her competitors so she can take over the hive.
Or, as Gary writes, "Rival queens engage in fierce stinging attacks until only one virgin queen remains. Virgin queens also initiate the destruction of capped queen cells containing their younger counterparts and sting them before they can complete development. This is the only time queens ever use their stingers."
Not a sweet thought on Valentine's Day!