It's not an “ordinary” bee suit. And what he does is not “ordinary.”
Norman Gary, a retired University of California, Davis entomology professor, wears his bees—thousands of them.
And that suits him just fine. To him, bees are not only a science (study of apiculture), but an adventure.
Gary, 76, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career, 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).
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 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!”
Norman Gary knows bees. And he knows their behavior.
As a beekeeper, he's kept bees for 62 years and as a researcher, he's studied them for more than three decades. He's published more 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers and four book chapters.
But he is also 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 estimates he has performed the bee cluster stunt at least 500 times over the past 35 years. He remembers 54 performances at the California State Fair alone.
The History Channel episode may be his last professionally staged bee-cluster stunt, he said. However, he will continue to serve as a bee consultant to video producers and has just written a beginning beekeeping book, “The Honey Bee Hobbyist,” to be published in early December by Bow Tie Press.
“Bees are trainable, if you ask them to perform behaviors that are in their natural behavioral repertoire,” Gary said.
For the shoot, Gary borrowed New World Carniolan bees from Schubert, whose bee stock originated with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of the Laidlaw facility. “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 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.
“Bees wrangled by this procedure have no inclination to sting,” he said. “Stinging behavior occurs naturally near the hive in defense of the entire colony not for the individual bee, because it dies within hours after stinging. Using this approach I have has as many as a million bees clustered on six people simultaneously “
Gary 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.
“Most people fear bees,” Gary acknowledged. “They think bees ‘want' to sting them. Wrong! They sting only when the nest or colony is attacked or disturbed or when they are trapped in a physical situation where they are crushed.”
Sometimes, with the heavy weight of the bees on his body, he'll receive one or two stings per cluster stunt. Sometimes none.
Gary, who began hobby beekeeping at age 15 in Florida, went on to earn a doctorate in apiculture at Cornell University in 1959. During his career, he 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.
Known internationally for his bee research, Gary was the first to document reproductive behavior of honey bees on film and the first to discover queen bee sex attractant pheromones. He invented a magnetic retrieval capture/recapture system for studying the foraging activities of bees, documenting the distribution and flight range in the field. His other studies revolved around honey bee pollination of agricultural crops, stinging and defensive behavior, and the effects of pesticides on foraging activities, among dozens of others.
Today his life centers around music and bees. He has played music professionally for more than 50 years and for nine years has led a Dixieland band, appropriately known as the Beez Kneez Jazz Band, recording two CDs. He has performed more than 30 years in the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the world's largest jazz festival.
His instruments include the “B-flat clarinet,” which he plays when he's covered with bees.
“I'm still very active in bees and music,” Gary said. “It's a good life.”
“Neal has a dynamic research program on the ecological impacts of native bees and he brings a new perspective to the campus,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. “We are very lucky to have him here as part of our reinvigorated bee biology program.”
Williams, an assistant professor at UC Davis, and a former assistant professor with the Department of Biology, Bryn Mawr College, researches pollination ecology, spanning the disciplines of conservation biology, behavioral ecology and evolution. Especially interested in sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture, Williams explores the role of native bees as crop pollinators and the effects of landscape composition and local habitat quality on their persistence.
Williams has researched agro-ecosystems in California's Central Valley and in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Among his research colleagues: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley, a UC Davis Department of Entomology affiliate and a 2007 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
“One of my continuing goals,” Williams said, “is to provide practical information that can be used for pollinator conservation and management strategies.”
In addition, he is studying how habitat restoration affects insect pollinator communities and pollination function. He has worked with the Nature Conservancy's Sacramento River Project “to determine whether these non-target species and the function they provide are restored along with targeted structural vegetation.”
Williams' pollinator conservation research in the East helped form the basis for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services' planting guidelines to enhance pollinators.
Apart from his work on pollinator conservation, he explores how specialist and generalist floral visitors differ in their contributions to pollination of their host plants. This project involves field sites in the deserts of the northernwestern Mexico and in the woodlands of northeastern United States.
A native of Madison, Wisc., Williams studied botany, history and philosophy of science in 1990-91 at Edinburgh University, Scotland, before receiving his bachelor of science degrees in botany and zoology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1992. He earned his doctorate in ecology and evolution in 1999 from the State University of New York, Stony Brook (SUNY-Stony Brook), and then served as the I. W. Killam Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a year.
Before joining the Bryn Mawr College faculty, Williams served as a postdoctoral researcher in 2001-2003 in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton, where he was a D.H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow.
Williams won the 1997 President's Award for Outstanding Teaching at SUNY-Stony Brook, and was awarded the 2008 Linback Award for Excellence in Teaching at Bryn Mawr College.
The recipient of numerous grants, Williams received a three-year grant in 2007 from the USDA-CSREES (Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service) Sustainable Agriculture Research an Education to research “Promoting Sustainable Crop Pollination by Wild Bees through Farmer Outreach and Education.”
He earlier won grants from the National Science Foundation, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the National Fish and Wildlife and Foundation and Nature Conservancy, and the American Museum of Natural History, among others.
He has just received new funding from the National Science Foundation and from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to continue his research in California.
Williams' work has been published in a number of journals, including the Annals of Botany, American Naturalist, Ecological Applications, Ecology Letters, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Download PDF of Native Bee Benefits: How to Increase Native Bee Pollination on Your Farm in Several Simple Steps, By Neal Williams, then of Bryn Mawr College, and Rachel Winfree, Rutgers.
DAVIS—He's chased aphids, lygus bugs and potato tuber moths; he's evaluated pesticides; and he's pursued predators, parasites and pathogens.
During his 63-year association with the University of California, he coordinated the conversion of the two-semester system to the quarter system at UC Davis; chaired the UC Davis Department of Entomology; and developed “The Natural History of Insects” into one of the most popular undergraduate classes on the UC Davis campus.
Oscar Gray Bacon, who will be 90 in November, did all that. And more.
As a UC agricultural entomologist for 41 years, he specialized “in the biology, ecology and population dynamics of insects associated with field crops.” He pioneered the biological control course on the UC Davis campus and was instrumental in forming the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group. He is credited with co-authoring the term, “integrated pest control.”
But wait. There's more. The 6-foot-4-inch lanky Renaissance man with the easy smile has restored antique cars and boats, from rustic Model T's to a 1964 mahogany Chris-Craft cabin cruiser. He's crafted furniture as fine as you'll ever see in a showroom and he's carved ducks so realistic you can almost hear them quack.
He is not only “Dr. Bacon,” but is also known as “Commodore Bacon” and “Docent Bacon.” In 1986-87, he headed a Coast Guard Auxiliary district that encompassed northern California and parts of Wyoming, Nevada and Utah. In 1996, he joined the docents at the Hays' Antique Truck Museum, Woodland, which in 1997 merged with the Heidrick Ag History Center. He continues to serve as a docent.
“I'm the jack of all trades,” he says, “and master of none.”
Bacon, who retired as an emeritus professor in 1987, lives in Davis with his wife, Barbara. He looks back upon his six decades with the University of California like the author of his own well-thumbed book.
When he joined the entomology faculty at UC Davis in 1953, it was not a department, but part of the UC Berkeley Department of Entomology. At that time, the Davis faculty included Stanley Bailey, Richard Bohart, John Eckert, Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., W. H. Lange, Leslie Smith, Eugene Stafford and Frank Summers. He is the last surviving member of the original faculty.
“The UC Davis department separated or became autonomous from UC Berkeley in 1963,” Bacon said.
Who is Oscar Gray Bacon?
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “I've always been interested in agricultural things, the applied side of entomology.”
Born Nov. 8, 1919, he's a former farm boy with roots that stretched deep in the San Joaquin Valley and a spirit that soared from the depths of the Great Depression.
He and his parents—he was an only child--farmed 60 acres seven miles from Sanger, Fresno County. He harvested grapes, figs and peaches, drove tractors, raised 4-H pigs, and renovated Model T's.
“Back then it seemed like nearly every farm had an old worn-out Model T along the fence lines,” he recalled. “A boyhood friend from a neighboring ranch and I would give a farmer a couple of dollars for his car and then restore it.” The Tin Lizzies purred back to life.
Young Oscar attended school in a two-room schoolhouse; grades one through four shared one room, and grades 5 to 8, the other.
Nature fascinated him. “I collected insects and watched birds and mammals and collected rocks and minerals.”
Oscar graduated from Sanger High School, Reedley Junior College and Fresno State College, majoring in zoology. He planned a career as a ranger naturalist with the National Parks Service, but the federal agency had no openings. So he accepted a position with the USDA Dried Fruit Insect Laboratory, Fresno, as a field aide.
It proved to be a two-year stint. In 1943, his boss steered him toward entomology and encouraged him “to get a degree” at UC Berkeley and return to the USDA.
In typical Oscar Bacon-fashion, he earned not one but two degrees from UC Berkeley. He completed his master's degree in entomology in 1944, following a year of study, and his doctorate in entomology in 1948.
His major professor at UC Berkeley was the legendary entomologist and aphid specialist Edward O. Essig (1884-1964), but Bacon worked more closely with another accomplished entomologist, Abraham Michelbacher (1899-1991). “Abe was like a second father to me,” Bacon said.
He landed his first full-time job in entomology in 1946 as an associate in the agriculture experiment station. Upon completing his Ph.D., he became a junior entomologist and instructor. As a Ph.D., his starting salary was less than $5000 a year.
Bacon's first major crop work: controlling aphids in spinach. Then it was on to other crops, including sweet corn, seed alfalfa, potatoes, small grains, tomatoes and melons.
“In 1953 I had the opportunity to come to Davis to develop my own programs,” Bacon said. “I was extremely grateful for that opportunity.” At the time, the UC Berkeley Department of Entomology offered a two-year “Farmers' Short Course” on the Davis campus for students interested in farming. The career-oriented program was phased out in 1959.
“Stanley Freeborn (first chancellor of UC Davis) and his wife welcomed us to campus,” he said. “He was very gracious--a very nice person.”
At the time, the original faculty members included Richard Bohart (1913-2007), insect systematics and Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), apiculturist. Today the Richard Bohart Museum of Entomology and Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility bear their names.
It was an era when secretaries typed manuscripts from handwritten notes; “office space” consisted of temporary buildings or renovated garages; and faculty (usually all male) wore a tie and jacket in the classroom. It was also a period of rapid growth and steady challenges.
In 1964 UC President Clark Kerr announced the plan to convert the entire UC academic system from two semesters to four quarters. UC Davis Chancellor Mrak asked Bacon to head the conversion efforts at Davis.
“We had 1687 courses, and they all had to be reviewed and shortened from 15 weeks to 10 weeks,” recalled Bacon. Remarkably, the conversion took only a year.
Entomologist Robbin Thorp, a native pollinator specialist and now emeritus professor, worked with Bacon. “I always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Oscar as a meticulous scientist, outstanding teacher, leader and person,” said Thorp, who collaborated with Bacon on alfalfa leafcutter bees in the mid-1960s.
“Oscar and his research associates, Dick James and Walt Riley, in collaboration with a grower, Dan Best in the Woodland area, designed and tested shelters to provide shade and ventilation for these relatively new pollinators for alfalfa seed production. The shelters were successful.”
“Oscar and his crew also tested pesticide effects on these bees and discovered a number of biological traits important to their management as commercial pollinators. Oscar co-authored the first Cooperative Extension publication on the alfalfa leafcutting bees with several of us.”
Bacon was considered UC's “No. 1 Alfalfa Seed Insect Man.” In 1987, the California Alfalfa Seed Production Board recognized him for 13 years of service. In 1975, the Pacific Seed Association, based in Los Angeles, named him “Man of the Year.”
Integrated pest management specialist Frank Zalom, former vice chair of the department and a Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, has long admired Bacon as an advocate for agricultural entomology research.
“Many entomologists may not appreciate that the credit for first using the term ‘integrated control' is generally attributed to Abraham Ezra Michelbacher and Oscar Bacon, who in a 1952 paper in the Journal of Economic Entomology on control of codling moth mentioned the importance of ‘considering the entire, entomological picture in developing a treatment for any particular pest.' ”
“This was an important step in the development of the IPM paradigm and is still relevant,” Zalom said. “I refer to it every year in my arthropod pest management class. I also appreciate his role in the development of the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group at UC Davis that produced many students who are working as pest management practitioners across the state and across the country.”
Vern Burton, a UC Davis-based Cooperative Extension specialist, now retired, said Bacon was “a dedicated, considerate teacher who was comfortable working with grower groups, students or researchers. He was a meticulous researcher, consistently employing those principles presented in his 1952 publication resulting in more efficient use of control measures while reducing the pesticide load on the environment.”
Bacon lived up to students' expectations, mentoring students who went on to become noted insect scientists. “I enjoyed teaching,” he said.
“Dr. Bacon was what I expected a professor to be,” said former student Marcia Booth, now a senior analytical chemist in the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, UC Davis. “And he always wore a tie and jacket.”
Bacon meshed entomology with family; he is a husband, father and grandfather. He and his first wife, the late Dorothy Flagg Bacon, raised three daughters, Beverly and Gayle (now both deceased), and Bonnie, a surgical nurse who lives in Lincoln Hills with her husband, Steve Krisiak. Gayle served as the management services officer of the UC Davis Department of Anthropology before her death in 2004.
Accolades follow Oscar Bacon like lygus bugs to alfalfa. The plaques that line his study in his Davis home attest to his significant contributions, recognized by a grateful and appreciative army of administrators, colleagues and students.
Other highlights of his life:
Field-Oriented Entomologist: He worked on field crops, including seed alfalfa, potatoes and small grains, establishing a state, national and sometimes global presence (potato crops in Bolivia). He targeted the lygus bug, the main pest of alfalfa seed production. “The lygus bug has no natural enemies, so we had to depend on insecticides. Then the lygus bug developed resistance to those insecticides.” Bacon developed economic thresholds, determining at what point the cost of pest damage exceeds the cost of pest control.
In 1944 Bacon showed that Catalina cherry moth, which infests Catalina cherry and large galls of the blue oak, is an important pest of walnuts in the Sacramento Valley. Today it attacks certain varieties of walnuts throughout the state.
Research: Bacon researched whether an 18-acre field of alfalfa seed would show the same yields without insecticides. Would predators and parasites be able to control the pests? His three-year study showed the organic field yielded 200 to 300 pounds per acre instead of the normal yield of 600 to 800. “Agricultural chemicals will be necessary on certain crops for some time to come,” he concluded. “The world's food supply would certainly not exist without the control measures as we know them today.”
Teaching and Advising: Bacon initiated the biological control course at UC Davis. He advised scores of undergraduate and graduate students. He helped launch the Plant Protection and Pest Management Graduate Group Program. When he retired, Bacon received a plaque from the graduate program applauding his dedication, perseverance and accomplishments. It's one of his cherished awards “because it's from the students.”
Administration: His role as a chancellor's assistant for UC Davis Chancellor Emil Mrak included the project of converting the UC Davis two-semester system to four quarters: completed in one year. As chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology from 1967 to 1974, he moved his department to the newly constructed Briggs Hall in 1972. Upon his retirement as chair, the faculty presented him a plaque thanking him for his “stewardship during a period when new teaching and research areas were initiated and when a great increase in the numbers of students enrolled in the department occurred has contributed significantly to the future of the department and to entomology.”
Heidrick Ag History Center: In 1996, Bacon began volunteering at the Hay's Antique Truck Museum, Woodland, which later merged with the Heidrick Ag History Center. He's known as “the friendly docent with first-hand knowledge of the farm equipment.” In his boyhood, he drove tractors similar to those on display. Today he volunteers once a week, more on special occasions.
U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: Bacon took up boating and fishing in 1956. In 1975, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. In December 1987, Bacon was elected commodore of a district that encompassed northern California and parts of Wyoming, Nevada and Utah. He taught boating safety, inspected crafts and patrolled the Delta waters for more than 25 years. The U.S. Coast Guard, the parent organization, awarded him a citation in 1988, praising his accomplishments and dedicated support.
Restoration: Bacon advanced from restoring rustic Model T's in his childhood to renovating antique cars and boats. At one time he owned four boats and five cars. One of his prized possessions: a 30-foot Chris-Craft cabin cruiser, a 1964 model that he restored in 1973 and sold in 2008. He has also crafted furniture for his home and family.
All Things Entomological: Bacon served as president of the Northern California Entomology Society and held membership in the Entomological Society of America and the Pacific Branch of ESA.
Cooperative Extension: In 1987, the UC Davis Cooperative Extension (CE) group honored him for his public service, naming him “the best problem solver.” The group included CE specialists Vern Burton and Eric Mussen; research associate Wayne Johnson (deceased); and administrative assistant Shirley Humphrey.
Today you'll find entomologists, past and present, lauding his legacy. Others praise his accomplishments as Commodore Bacon, Docent Bacon and Artist Bacon.
A master of them all.
One thing, however, has always puzzled and impressed his friends: How Bacon could tuck his 6-foot, 4-inch frame inside his Triumph TR3, a tiny British sports car he restored. “It looked like a giant getting out of a toy car at the circus,” recalled apiculturist Mussen.
He was a master of that, too.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology
At Shafter, Leigh focused his research on the biology, ecology, host plant resistance, control and management of insects and spider mites on cotton. He stood at the forefront of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of cotton pests, according to an article in the summer 1994 edition of American Entomologist. He taught courses on cotton IPM and host plant resistance.
“During his career, he advised many graduate students who went on to become renowned entomologists in cotton IPM around the world,” wrote Charles E. Jackson of Uniroyal Chemical, Clovis, Calif., and J. Hodge Black, UC Cooperative Extension, Bakersfield in the American Entomologist. For his achievements in teaching and research, Leigh received the James H. Meyer Recognition Award for Distinguished Achievement Service Award in 1988.
The Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America awarded him the C. F. Woodworth Award for outstanding service to entomology in 1991. Charles W. Woodworth (1865-1940) founded the Entomology Division of the University of California, Berkeley, and is considered the founder of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
'Leigh's caring, enthusiasm, intellect, expertise and professionalism were regarded highly by all who knew him.'
Leigh was born March 6, 1923 in Loma Linda. A 1942 graduate of Beaumont High School, he worked briefly on a farm and then served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
His work as an agricultural inspector with the Riverside County Agricultural Commissioner's Office from 1944-1945 sparked his interest in entomology. He received his bachelor of science degree in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1949, and his doctorate in entomology there in 1956. His thesis was on the influence of light, temperature and humidity on flight activity of the butterfly, Colias and involved both field and laboratory investigations.
Leigh served as an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas from 1954 to 1958, where he worked on the biology, ecology and control of pink bollworm and boll weevil, using chemicals and cultural means. He joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology, advancing from assistant entomologist to associate entomologist in 1963. In 1968, he was promoted to adjunct lecturer and entomologist.
Leigh served as president of the Pacific Branch of ESA in 1981. He also served on the ESA Governing Board and was a founding member and past president of the American Registry of Professional Entomologists (ARPE). In 1981 he received the ARPE Outstanding Entomologist Award. In 1993, Leigh was elected as a director to the Board Certified Entomologists' certification board.
In addition, Leigh was active in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was the founding president of the San Joaquin Entomology Association. He held membership in several other associations, including the Association of Applied Insect Ecologists, the Ecological Society of America, and the American Archeological Society. The UC Davis entomologist was a past president of the Shafter Rotary Club and also active in the Boy Scouts of America.
During his 37-year career, he authored more than 127 peer-reviewed publications.
“His many colleagues considered his research and teaching to be outstanding,” wrote authors Jackson and Black in the American Entomologist. “Leigh's caring, enthusiasm, intellect, expertise and professionalism were regarded highly by all who knew him.”
In his memory, his family and associates set up the Leigh Distinguished Alumni Seminar in Entomology Fund at the UC Davis Department of Entomology. The alumni seminar is now known as the Thomas and Nina Distinguished Alumni Seminar, memorializing Dr. Leigh and his wife, Nina Eremin Leigh (1929-2002). The family includes two sons, Michael and Nicholas.
By Bruce D. Hammock, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology
S. George Kamita, researcher, Hammock lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology
Susumu Maeda died unexpectedly of natural causes in his sleep on March 26, 1998, in Tokyo, Japan. At the time of his death, he appeared to be in perfect health and was enjoying the fruits of his labors to establish large research laboratories both in the United States and in his native Japan.
Susumu was born on April 9, 1950, the second son of Dr. and Mrs. Tsuneo Maeda of Matsumoto, Japan. He spent his youth in the Japanese Alps where he developed a lifelong love of mountain climbing and hiking as well as a deep interest in the natural history of insects. In his youth Susumu also studied the violin under the tutelage of Shinichi Suzuki and developed an intense love of classical music. His given name Susumu means 'to advance or progress.' Following his death he was given the Buddhist name Kenshininshakujyoshin which roughly means 'sincere seeker of knowledge' as a tribute to his lifelong commitment to science. Susumu is survived by his wife Hiroko of Davis and his parents.
Susumu graduated from Matsumoto-Fukashi Senior High School and was accepted to the University of Tokyo where he received his B.S. (1975), M.S. (1978, and Ph.D. (1983). His graduate research in the H. Watanabe laboratory focused on the densonucleosis virus of the silkworm Bombyx mori. In 1978 he accepted a position at Tottori University as an Assistant Professor. He spent one year studying with Yoshinori Tanada at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980 where he met Hiroko Murai who later became his wife. While in the U. S., Susumu also studied in the James and Ellen Strauss laboratories at the California Institute of Technology. Susumu actively taught at Tottori University until 1998 while at the same time commuting to Tokyo for research and internationally as a consultant on transgenic expression for companies involved in pharmaceutical and agricultural research. In 1987 he joined the Zoecon Corporation in Palo Alto, California, where he first expressed and insect neurohormone using a baculovirus and demonstrated that it disrupted insect development. In 1988 he joined the Department of Entomology at Davis, and in 1996 he accepted a concurrent position as Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Entomology and Baculovirology at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) in Wako, Japan. A research appointment at RIKEN is one of the highest honors for a scientist in Japan. With these two laboratories Susumu was poised to see his dreams come true.
The viral diseases of the silkworm, B. mori, first caught Susumu's interest early in his career and this proved a focus for all of his later work. He specialized in the baculovirus of B. mori but worked on several other viruses as well in addition to the basic biology of the silkworm. Production of recombinant proteins like human interferon, development of viral insecticides, basic investigations of apoptosis, fundamental developmental biology, host range, genomics and other projects all emanated from his original theme.
Susumu probably is best known for his development of the B. mori expression system reported in 1985 in the journal Nature. This system is analogous to the similar system developed by Max Summers and Associates at Texas A&M University, but it uses as host the domesticated silkworm, an animal that has been in culture for thousands of years. This expression system opened the door to the inexpensive production of recombinant proteins in mass reared whole insects. This system thus had a great impact on the production of recombinant drugs especially in developing countries. Fundamental science also has benefited greatly from the use of this eucaryotic expression system. An application of the in vivo expression system was realized with the development of the first recombinant viral insecticides. Susumu's laboratory demonstrated the concept that these natural biological control agents could be modified to make them more useful in field and row crop agriculture using B mori and then moved on to develop viruses for the control of the most serious crop pests worldwide. He was involved in the first effort to modify these viruses by expression of neurohormones, insect enzymes and peptide toxins, and before his death the recombinant viruses resulting from his pioneering efforts were in field trial on three continents.
Many aspects of Susumu's research showed tremendous foresight and have an ever-expanding impact on science. However, one of his most noteworthy accomplishments was the total sequencing of the genome of a large DNA virus, the baculovirus of B. mori. Susumu initiated this work in earnest as soon as he arrived at Davis. At the time such an effort was criticized by many as a mindless goal. However, this virus was one of the first organisms to be totally sequenced, and helped usher in the concept of using high throughput sequencing to generate genomic databases. The now common human, crop, pest and other genomic projects attest to Susumu's farsighted approach. At RIKEN he was positioned to undertake a massive project to sequence the entire genome of the silkworm as a model system to study fundamental biology as well as agricultural pest insects. Susumu made extensive use of hypothesis driven science, but he also worked strategically. His project to sequence the genome of the baculovirus of B. mori was expected to lead to a molecular-level understanding of how viruses alter the behavior of their host and the complex biochemical interactions, which determine host range of viruses. Susumu also laid the groundwork through his sequencing projects to address some of the most fundamental questions in modern biology including apoptosis and recognition of self and nonself. It is sad to many of us that the full exploitation of this sequence must fall to others. Thus, a retrospective of Susumu's science illustrates a man who pioneered a technology that positively impacted both medicine and agriculture and also proved a valuable tool in elucidating basic life processes.
Susumu was active in many professional organizations including the American Society for Virology, Society for Invertebrate Pathology, Entomological Society of America, American Society for Microbiology and American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Susumu was honored by his colleagues with many awards, but possibly his most cherished occurred when Susumu and Hiroko had an audience with Emperor Akihito of Japan to discuss his research. He was recognized as a rising star of molecular virology in Japan. In both his laboratories in the U.S. and Japan, Susumu utilized advanced techniques in molecular biology to elucidate the intricacies of the interaction of insect viruses with their hosts. During the years that Susumu was a professor at Davis, he trained over 50 scientists who took his teaching throughout the world. His associates are now in Australia, China, Egypt, Japan, India, Israel, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, and other countries. He was known among his students as a hard working and enthusiastic scientist who brought inspiration as well as joy to his laboratory. Susumu was a conscientious faculty member, seldom missing a faculty or committee meeting and he worked hard to make Davis a still better intellectual community. The loss of such a vigorous, dynamic and caring scientist had a major impact on his colleagues around the world.
A mulberry tree planted in Susumu's honor recalls his first months in Davis when leaves from mulberry trees around the city vanished in the wee hours of the morning to feed his voracious silkworm colonies. In March of 1999 a symposium focusing on the current and future perspectives of baculovirus research was held in his honor at RIKEN and the resulting papers as well as a bibliography of his publications and several tributes are published in the RIKEN Review #22 (June, 1999). There is a great sadness that the University lost one of its brightest stars after little more than a decade. However, Susumu Maeda lived life to the fullest and shared much with his students and colleagues. We are fortunate that this wonderful scientist, mentor, colleague and friend shared this all too brief period with us.
"We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love"--De Stael