You don't want to just keep bees, you want to devote your life to learning more about them and understanding them. And you want to engage in public service.
“Any universal and immutable scale with which to measure mastery of a human pursuit is at best elusive,” says Master Beekeeper Mea McNeil of San Anselmo, who doubles as a journalist, writing for beekeeping journals and other publications. “For those whose lives are devoted to understanding the wonders that are bees, every research answer begets a new question. So it is that an array of Master Beekeeper programs have been developed to bring dedicated beekeepers to a sophisticated level of knowledge that is defined by each course.”
McNeill, who is also an organic farmer, wrote those words for an article published 10 years ago in The American Bee Journal. Roger Morris of Cornell University taught the first known Master Beekeeping course, she related, and the first Master Beekeeping certificate went to beekeeper Peter Bizzosa in 1972.
The good news is that the University of California, Davis, is now planning its first-ever Master Beekeeping course. There are no times and dates. Not yet. It's all in the beginning stages, says Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
If you want to get on the Master Beekeeper list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from your email address or the address you want subscribed. In the subject line of your message, type in: subscribe camasterbee Firstname Lastname.
“I completed the Master Beekeeping Program at the University of Nebraska under Dr. Marion Ellis,” McNeil said, adding that it was quite comprehensive. “I learned enough about bees and beekeeping to become humbled at the vastness of the subject. An important component of that program is service, so, as a working journalist, I began writing about the bee world as a result.”
In her journal article, McNeil described several programs, but pointed out that “No two programs may be alike, but they spring from a common philosophy: the bees are precious and necessary, and those who know them well will serve to help them thrive. Most intend to create ambassadors for the bees, a mission to bring the public into greater awareness of their importance.”
These are university-level courses--extensive, detailed and challenging--with written, lab, oral and field exams. You have to know the material and be comfortable in explaining it. You may have to, for example, identify “a blob of unidentifiable substance” and “describe the cause and how to prevent it,” as McNeil wrote. One blob turned out to be “chewed up bees from skunks sucking the juices from bees, then spitting out bee parts.”
Take the Master Beekeeping Program at the University of Florida. It's an ongoing program that spans a minimum of five years. Participants work toward “advancing to the next level by reading books, demonstrating public service credits, participating in research projects, or extension programs, etc.," the website says. "In order to enter the program, you must begin by taking the written and practical examination for the Apprentice Beekeeper level." Master Beekeepers serve as an arm of the Extension services.
Meanwhile, in addition to the pending Master Beekeeper course, UC Davis offers beekeeping and queen-rearing courses for novices, intermediates and advanced beekeepers. If you're interested in joining the beekeeping course list, send an email to email@example.com from the address you want to subscribed to the list. In the subject line, type: subscribe elninobeelabclasses Firstname Lastname.
A number of eminent bee scientists will be speaking soon at UC Davis. They include David Tarby, Gene Robinson and Dennis vanEngelsdorp.
David Tarpy, Wednesday, Feb. 3
Extension apiculturist/professor David Tarpy of North Carolina State University will present a seminar on "Young Regality: a Day in the Life of a Virgin Queen Bee" from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 3 in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive, UC Davis.
The seminar, free and open to all interested persons, is part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's noonhour seminars. It also will be recorded for later posting on UCTV. His host is Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
"Social insects have long fascinated entomologists, and honey bees have been a model system for their study," said Tarpy, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis in 2000 with major professor Robert Page, former chair of the Department of Entomology and now university provost emeritus and Foundation chair of Life Sciences, Arizona State University. "At the heart of the colony is a single queen, the mother of all nestmates and critical member for colony productivity. The natural history of queens is a fascinating story, one that interweaves the complexities of social behavior, genetics, and evolutionary ecology."
Tarpy joined the North Carolina State University faculty in 2003 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship with Tom Seeley of Cornell University. He received his bachelor's degree in biology in 1993 from Hobart College and his master's degree in biology in 1995 from Bucknell University.
Gene Robinson, Monday, Feb. 22
Eminent honey bee scientist Gene E. Robinson of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will speak on “Me to We: Using Honey Bees to Find the Genetic Roots of Social Life” at the UC Davis Chancellor's Colloquium on Monday, Feb. 22 in Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. This was initially scheduled to take place in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, but has been changed due to the increasing registration.
His presentation, part of the Chancellor's Colloquium Distinguished Speakers Series, is from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Registration is underway on the Chancellor's Colloquium series website. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required.
Robinson pioneered the application of genomics to the study of social behavior and led the effort to sequence the honey bee genome.
Robinson is the University Swanlund chair and directs the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) and the Bee Research Facility. He received his doctorate in entomology from Cornell University in 1986 and joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.
Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Saturday, May 7
The second annual UC Davis Bee Symposium is scheduled Saturday, May 7, with details forthcoming. We do know, however, that bee scientist Dennis vanEngelsdorp of the University of Maryland will be among the featured speakers, according to Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, and Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. So mark your calendars for this all-day symposium.
Van Engelsdorp says on his website: "My research focus on pollinator health, and honey bee health specifically. I am particularly intrigued with using an epidemiological approach to understanding and (importantly) improving honey bee health. This approach is multi-faceted, requiring understanding both the etiology of individual bee diseases and the large scale monitoring of colony health."
Van Engelsdor presented an outstanding TED talk on "A Plea for Bees" back in July of 2008 and you can watch it here. The teaser: "Bees are dying in droves. Why? Leading apiarist Dennis vanEngelsdorp looks at the gentle, misunderstood creature's important place in nature and the mystery behind its alarming disappearance."
If you missed the 2015 UC Davis Bee Symposium, you missed hearing Marla Spivak, the distinguished McKnight Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota and winner of a MacArthur Genius Grant, deliver the keynote address. She delivered a TED talk in June of 2003 on our disappearing bees and you can watch it here.
Meanwhile, check out the Honey and Pollination Center website to see photos and data from the inaugural UC Davis Bee Symposium. UC Davis is the place to "bee" to learn about bees.
The bees are a'buzzing!
The Department of Entomology and Nematology will offer honey tasting from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Briggs Hall courtyard. Last year's event drew some 3000 people. The process is easy: take a toothpick, dip it into the honey container (no double-dipping) and savor.
This year visitors can sample six different varietals of honey: coffee blossom, meadowfoam blossom, buckwheat, creamed clover, cotton and chestnut, according to Extension apiculturist Elina Niño. Across the hallway, in Room 122, folks can check out the bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Niño and staff research associate Billy Synk will answer questions about bees.
Several blocks away, the Honey and Pollination Center, located at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (RMI), will offer honey tasting: avocado, orange blossom, sage, sweet pea, meadowfoam and UC Davis wildflower. Visitors can purchase the UC Davis wildflower honey, said Honey and Pollination Center executive director Amina Harris. And yes, there will be a bee observation hive at RMI, too. How fast can you find the queen bee?
Meanwhile, the "Wings of Life" will be playing continuously in the RMI's Sensory Theatre. It doesn't get any better than this!
Harris encourages visitors to "bee all you can bee" by wearing bee or honey costumes or "come dressed as your favorite pollinator." Arts and crafts activities for children are also planned. Think bees. Thank them, too. You'll see bees foraging in the Good Life Garden that fronts RMI. Vegetables, fruits, herbs...they're all there.
Saturday is a also a good time to visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Planted in 2009, the half-acre bee friendly garden is operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. It is open from dawn to dusk every day for self-guided tours. There you'll see honey bees from the nearby Laidlaw facility doing what they do best--pollinating. Keep a watch out for other pollinators, too. They include sweat bees, digger bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees and butterflies. Then mark your calendar for May 2 to return to the haven from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the fifth anniversary celebration, coordinated by manager Chris Casey.
Yes, Saturday April 18 promises to be a "honey of a day" and a "honey of a picnic."
So we're looking forward to a special seminar by Pennsylvania State University bee scientist Christina Grozinger on "Bee Health: from Genes to Landscapes” on Friday, March 6 at the University of California, Davis.
Grozinger, professor of entomology at Penn State and director of the Center for Pollinator Research, will present the seminar at 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs, off Kleiber Hall Drive. Her host is her former graduate student, Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Niño received her doctorate from Penn State.
"Populations of honey bees and other pollinators are in decline globally due to the effects of multiple biotic and abiotic stressors," Grozinger says in her abstract. "We have examined the impacts of several of these stressors (pathogens, parasites, and pesticides) on honey bee workers at the genomic level to determine if they perturb common or distinct pathways, and if these pathways are related to particular physiological functions or social behaviors. Parasitization with Nosema and chronic sublethal pesticide exposure both modulate expression of metabolic and nutrition-related pathways, suggesting that nutritional parameters can mitigate the impact of these stressors."
"Additional testing demonstrated that diet can significantly influence individual bees' sensitivity to pesticides," Grozinger continues. "Furthermore, we have demonstrated that the nutritional quality of floral resources is influenced by environmental conditions, and, in turn, influences foraging preferences of bees. Overall, our results demonstrate that the nutritional quality of floral resources is modulated by multiple factors, bees use nutritional cues while foraging, and high quality nutrition improves bees' resistance to stressors."
Grozinger received her bachelor's degree from McGill University in 1997, her master's degree from Harvard in 1990 and her doctorate from Harvard in 2001. Her areas of expertise include pollinators, honey bees, social insects, genomics, immunity, behavior and physiology. See her website for more about her lab research.
Grozinger's seminar will be video-recorded for later viewing on UCTV Seminars. Matthew Prebus, graduate student in the Phil Ward lab, will record the seminar.
If you see a news story about "honey bees" in a newspaper or magazine, odds are you'll see it spelled as one word, "honeybees."
That's because the Associated Press Stylebook, the journalists' "bible," spells it that way. So do dictionaries.
However, in the entomological world, that's incorrect. "Honey bee" is two words because it's a true bee, just like "bumble bee." Similarly, you wouldn't spell "dragonfly" as "dragon fly" because a dragonfly is not a fly.
The Entomological Society of America (ESA) governs the worldwide references to insects in its Common Names of Insects. If you want to know the common name, scientific name, order, family, genus, species and author, the ESA database provides it. Type in a name and a drop-down menu appears. Find the honey bee!
Common name: Honey bee
Scientific name: Apis mellifera Linnaeus
Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology writes about the misspelling in the Kids' Corner of her recent newsletter, from the UC Apiaries. "Since starting my new job at UC Davis, I have been corrected a few times for spelling 'honey bee' as two words rather than 'honeybee,' a single word. What do you think: which one is more appropriate?"
She goes on to explain why "honey bee" is accurate. "Honey bees belong to an order of insects (a group of insects that have several similar features) named Hymenoptera which contains bees, wasps, sawflies and ants. You might even say they are 'true' bees and therefore, should be spelled as two words."
In an article published in a 2004 edition of Entomology Today, the Entomological Society of America's communications program manager Richard Levine acknowledges that "Writing insect names using American English can be difficult. Some species have different names depending on where you are, or with whom you are speaking (think 'ladybug' or 'ladybird' or 'lady beetle'). More often than not, an insect may not even have an official common name because out of the million or so insects that have been discovered and described, only a couple of thousand have been designated with common names by the Entomological Society of America (ESA)."
"To make matters worse," Levine writes, "even the ones that DO have official common names — ones that we see nearly every day — may have different spellings depending on whether they appear in scientific publications or other print media, such as newspapers or magazines."
So the "bible" of journalists--or what the Associated Press sanctions and governs--does not always agree with the scientific "bible" of the entomological community--or what ESA sanctions and governs.
"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," Levine points out. "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."
As an aside, we wonder if the controversy over the spelling of "honey bee" extends to spelling bees. Would judges eliminate someone for spelling "honey bee" with a space in between? "H-O-N-E-Y (space) B-E-E?"
Still, things can and do change. For years, the AP Stylebook editors insisted that "under take" is two words, not one. They've relented now, and it's one word, "undertake." Glory bee!
Will the AP Stylebook follow the ESA's Common Names of Insects and decide it's "honey bee," not "honeybee?" Will the AP Stylebook give the honey bee some space? Just a little space?
Stay tuned. Or stay buzzed.