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>
These are the plants they established in a garden on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
"The overall aim of our study was to identify California native plants, and more generally plant traits, suitable for coordinated habitat management of arthropod pollinators, herbivores, and natural enemies and promote integrated ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes," they wrote. "More specifically we ask (a) which native plants among our candidate set attract the highest abundances of wild bees, honeybees, herbivores, predators, and parasitic wasps, (b) if the total abundances of arthropods within these functional groups across plant species are related to the peak flowering week, floral area, or flower type of the focal plant species, and (c) if the total abundances of arthropods within these functional groups are correlated to each other across plant species." (See the results of their research.)
How did they select the plants? "Selected species were forbs that were drought-tolerant, native to California (one exception), and as a group, covered a range of flowering periods throughout the season," they wrote. The one exception: Fagopyrum esculentum, or "domestic buckwheat." Although it's a non-native, it was introduced elsewhere but naturalized in the wild.
Their selections were also based on several other factors:
- indications that they could be attractive to bees based on being listed as nectar and pollen plants for honeybees (Vansell, 1941)
- being recommended as pollinator plants (Xerces Society, 2018)
- being listed as associated with bees in Calflora (2017) or based on earlier collected data on bee attractiveness (Williams et al., 2015).
A further criterion that restricted selection was that "plant material needed for propagation be commercially available either as seeds or plug plants." The exception: Antirrhinum cornutum, commonly known as spurred snapdragon, for which seed was hand-collected.
They excluded plants that are major weeds of crops or pastures. They did note, however, that Amsinckia intermedia (Eastwood's fiddleneck) and Calandrinia menziesii (red maids) can be desirable components of wildlands, but become minor weeds in certain situations (UC IPM, 2018).
And now for the 43 plants, as listed in their chart. We alphabetized them and linked them to the Calflora.org site so you can see images of the plants and the common names. Calflora is a self-described nonprofit organization "where you can learn about plants that grow wild in California (both native plants and weeds)."
- Achillea millefolium, common yarrow
- Amsinckia intermedia, Eastwood's fiddleneck
- Antirrhinum cornutum, spurred snapdragon
- Asclepias eriocarpa, Indian milkweed
- Asclepias fascicularis, narrow leaf milkweed
- Calandrinia menziesii, red maids
- Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia, beach evening-primrose
- Clarkia purpurea, purple clarkia
- Clarkia unguiculata, Woodland clarkia
- Clarkia williamsonii, Fort Miller clarkia
- Collinsia heterophylla, Purple Chinese houses
- Eriophyllum lanatum, common woolly sunflower
- Eschscholzia californica, California poppy
- Fagopyrum esculentum, domestic buckwheat (non-native, introduced elsewhere but naturalized in the wild)
- Lasthenia fremontii, Fremont's goldfields
- Lasthenia glabrata, yellow-rayed goldfields
- Limnanthes alba, white meadowfoam
- Lupinus microcarpus var. densiflorus, chick lupine
- Lupinus succulentus, Arroyo lupine
- Monardella villosa, coyote mint
- Nemophila maculata, five spot
- Nemophila menziesii, baby blue eyes
- Phacelia californica, rock phacelia
- Phacelia campanularia ,desert bells
- Phacelia ciliata, Great valley phacelia
- Phacelia tanacetifolia, tansy leafed phacelia
- Salvia columbariae, chia sage
- Scrophularia californica, California bee plant
- Sphaeralcea ambigua, desert mallow
- Trifolium fucatum, bull clover
- Trifolium gracilentum, pin point clover
- Eriogonum fasciculatum, California buckwheat
- Gilia capitata, blue field gilia
- Grindelia camporum, gum plant or gumweed
- Helianthus annuus, hairy leaved sunflower
- Lupinus formosus, Western lupine
- Malacothrix saxatilis, cliff aster
- Oenothera elata, evening primrose
- Helianthus bolande, Bolander's sunflower
- Helianthus californicus, California sunflower
- Madia elegans,common madia
- Trichostema lanceolatum, vinegarweed
- Heterotheca grandiflora, telegraph weed
When you're thinking of what native California plants to establish in your pollinator garden, this is a great list, thanks to the Williams lab and their collaborators.
And, if you want to learn more about their research, contact lead author Ola Lundin, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Williams lab and now a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala. He can be reached at Ola.Lundin@slu.se.
He pulls up a chair, mounts his Canon on his tripod, and adjusts the lens settings--and the trademark hat that shades his face.
His passion: insects. They cannot escape his quick eye and steady hands. Not the honey bee. Not the leafcutter bee. Not the bumble bee. And not the territorial male European wool carder bees that he has nicknamed “bonker bees” (for their behavior of dislodging other bees from the nectar-rich blossoms in order to save the food for their own species, perchance to mate with them.)
Allan Jones delights in not only capturing images of insects, but learning more about them, and sharing his finds with others.
And on Saturday, Sept. 22, he will display many of his images at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven open house, set from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event, free and family friendly (and the last open house of the year), will include a catch-and-release bee activity, and a sale of bee plants and solitary bee condos (drilled holes in blocks of wood for bee nests, accommodating leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees). Plus, visitors will receive recommendations on what to plant for the fall to attract pollinators.
Jones will exhibit images of male and female bees of the same species, including a male and female leafcutter bee, Megachile fidelis, on sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale.
Among his many other images: a leafcutting bee “flying a bit of Clarkia petal back as nest material” and a “honey bee vs. wasp image designed to help define and differentiate bees and wasps.”
An alumnus of UC Davis, Allan became an Aggie in 1961, receiving degrees in English and German in 1966, and his master's in English in 1972. He joined the doctoral program in 1973 "but I quit in 1974, making my summer job of inspecting tomatoes my career for 43 seasons (with California Department of Food and Agriculture for half of his career, and then working with CDFA on an independent advisory board). I did some workmanlike macro photography of tomato defects and wider shots of the inspection process for training. “
He spent the ‘70s in Dixon, and the ‘80s and ‘90s in Sacramento “before moving back to Davis after 2000.”
“Working tomatoes six to nine months a year allowed me to pursue art and later landscape photography along the American River,” Jones related. “During the winter of 1982. I tried to capture glimpses of the American River in every light as the historic wild braided river it once was. The scenes are painterly, echoing the Hudson River School. When I moved from Sacramento back to Davis I turned to the UC Davis Arboretum, picking up macro shots to enhance a PowerPoint program I made for the Sacramento State Renaissance Society."
Jones is keenly drawn to the behavior of insects. “My intent with insects and bees is the capture their behaviors in context, that is, together with the flowers they pollinate,” Jones says. “I often use layers in PhotoShop to get the flower as well as the insect in focus. For me the co-evolution of bees and flowers requires them both to share the stage. I aim for a tiny diorama from an illustrator's perspective.”
His camera gear? “I am between Canon platforms. I have an older Canon 6D with a Sigma 180 macro and am moving to a Canon, Mark 2 EOS 1DX, with a new 100-400 telephoto lens using a 20 mm extension tube for macro--my new favorite. First I shoot the bee at least once then take multiple shots of the flower(s) for effective layering.”
Jones is a volunteer photographer for both the haven and the UC Davis Arboretum. He works closely with native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, who identifies and/or confirms his identifications. Thorp, who maintains an office in the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, co-authored Bumble Bees of California: An Identification Guide (2014, Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (2014, Heyday Books).
The haven, installed in the fall of 2009 and located at the end of Bee Biology Road, is open from dawn to dusk. It is directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Christine Casey, the haven's academic program manager, says many difficult-to-find pollinator plants will be on sale. (See the plant list.)
As temperatures climbed into the seventies last Saturday, honey bees foraged in the California native plant, Brandegee's sage (Salvia brandegeei). and pollinated the almond blossoms.
It seemed like spring.
Nearly 600 visitors crowded into the half-acre bee demonstration garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven during the seventh annual UC Davis Biodioversity Museum Day. The haven was one of 13 museums or collections offering special activities.
Visitors learned about bees, engaged in a catch-and-release bee activity with a vacuum device and made "feed-the-bees" seed cookies to take home.
The haven, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. A six-foot-long bee sculpture, Miss Beehaven, by artist Donna Billick, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, anchors the garden. Other art, coordinated by entomology professor Diana Ullman, co-founder and director of the Art/Science Fusion Program, and Billick, also graces the garden.
The haven, installed in the fall of 2009, was named for its principal donor, the premium ice cream brand, Häagen-Dazs. Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology serves as the faculty director of the haven, and Christine Casey, academic program management officer, serves as the staff manager.
Here's how to join the ranks of California's estimated 11,000 backyard and small-scale beekeepers. Or, if you're already a beekeeper, here's how to improve your knowledge and skills.
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the University of California, Davis, and her lab have announced a series of short courses for the 2018--and folks can register now and/or purchase gift certificates. (Gift certificates are especially favored during the holiday season.)
All courses will take place at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis campus, beginning Saturday, March 24, with the last one ending June 16.
The schedule and capsule information:
- Planning Ahead for Your First Hives: Saturday, March 24
- Working Your Colonies: Sunday, March 25
- Queen-Rearing Techniques Short Course: Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22 course; Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29 course
- Bee-Breeding Basics: Saturday, June 9
- Varroa Management Strategies: Saturday, June 16
Planning Ahead for Your First Hives: The short course will include lectures and hands-on exercises. This course is perfect for those who have little or no beekeeping experience and would like to obtain more knowledge and practical skills to move on to the next step of owning and caring for their own honey bee colonies.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the March 24 class
Working Your Colonies: Get up close and personal with bees. This course is for novice beekeepers who already have a colony and/or have taken the previous course, and want to develop their beekeeping skills further. Instructors will discuss products of the hive, present a lecture on inspecting your colony, and solve problems with your colony. The afternoon will be spent entirely in the apiary with hands-on activities and demonstrations.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the March 25 class
Queen-Rearing Techniques Short Course: This two-day course will include lectures, hands-on exercises and lots of group discussions. This course is perfect for those who have some beekeeping experience and would like to move on to the next step of rearing their own queens or maybe even trying their luck at bee breeding.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the April 21-22 course
Click here to register for the April 28-April 29 course
Bee-Breeding Basics: This course is an excellent complement to the Queen Rearing Techniques Short Course. During this one-day course, the instructors will talk about the intricacies of honey bee genetics along with honey bee races and breeder lines. An in-depth discussion of various breeding schemes will take place.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the June 9 class
Varroa Management Strategies: Current beekeeping challenges call for all beekeepers to have a solid understanding of varroa mite biology and management approaches. The instructors will dive deeper into understanding varroa biology and will devote a majority of the time to discussing pros and cons of various means to monitor, mitigate, and manage this crucial honey bee pest.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the June 16 class
The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is located at 1 Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. It is named for former UC Davis professor Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr., the father of honey bee genetics./span>