- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
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.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Check out the Life After People series airing on the History Channel. Next week the series will include the segment, "The Last Supper" and include an interview with entomologist Lynn Kimsey (right), director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
The segment is scheduled to air Thursday, Jan. 26. She's also scheduled to appear in another segment on Feb. 2. (Check the History Channel for local listings.)
A TV crew trucked to UC Davis last October to film Kimsey, a noted authority on insects. Indeed, she's virtually surrounded by insects; the Bohart Museum contains more than seven million insect specimens.
Globally, we have about a million DESCRIBED insect species, with millions more yet to be discovered. In fact, some entomologists estimate there may be as many as 30 million undiscovered species out there.
The Life After People series "begins in the moments after people disappear," the Web site indicates. "As each day, month and year passes, the fate of a particular environment, city or theme is disclosed. Special effects, combined with interviews from top experts in the field of engineering, botany, biology, geology, and archeology provide an unforgettable visual journey through the ultimately hypothetical."
"The Last Supper" segment takes a look at the world of food. "Destructive forces turn supermarkets into breeding grounds for insects and rodents. Some foods last forever. Da Vinci's The Last Supper suffers due to an unusual paint ingredient. Some of man's agricultural staples succumb, while a surprising plant thrives. Exquisite restaurants atop of Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world, collapse."
Foods that last forever? No doubt honey is one of them. Jars of honey found in Egyptian tombs date back 3300 years.
And the quality of the honey? Still edible.
After all those years.