- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
They should limit their hobby to two colonies, says Gary, 85, whose expertise in beekeeping, including professor, scientist, author and professional bee wrangler, spans seven decades.
“Increasing populations of bees can easily ‘overgraze' the resources,” Gary explains. “Excessive competition for limited nectar and pollen sources also threatens hundreds of native bee species, such as bumble bees, that have similar dietary requirements.”
In his newly published second edition of his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees (Fox Chapel Publishing, East Petersburg, Pa.), he includes a chapter on “Urban Entomology” that “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.
“The yield of honey per colony is declining significantly in urban environments,” he says. “These declines leave no doubt that overpopulation of bees in urban settings is the primary cause. Few beekeepers are aware that each bee colony consumes at least 100 pounds of honey annually, made from approximately 200 pounds of nectar! When nectar is abundant and there is good weather for foraging, a typical honey colony has the potential to produce more than 100 pounds of harvestable honey per year.”
“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, he 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.
He launched the Thriller Bee Shows, performing more than 100 times in three western states, with venues that included the California State Fair. He drew widespread acclaim for wearing a head-to-toe suit of clustered bees while "Buzzin' with His Bee-Flat Clarinet."
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.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Niño, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology on Sept. 1 from Pennsylvania State University—2600 miles away--is as busy as the proverbial worker bee during a colony's spring buildup as she settles into her new position involving research, education and outreach.
“California is a good place to bee,” she said. “I just wish I could have brought some of that Pennsylvania rain with me to help out California's drought.” Now she is looking forward to the almond pollination season, which brings some 1.5 million colonies from all over the country to California's almond orchards.
Niño operates her field lab at Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road and at her campus lab in Briggs Hall, on the central campus. Her aims: to conduct practical, problem-solving research projects; to support the state's beekeepers through research, extension and outreach; and to address beekeeper and industry concerns.
Niño, who studies honey bee biology, health, reproduction, pollination biology, insect ecology, evolution, genomics and chemical ecology, and genomics, replaces Eric Mussen, who retired in June 30 after 38 years of service. “Elina is a very accomplished scientist,” said Mussen. “Her research involves the reproductive processes involved in queen bee mating, including the impacts of oviduct manipulation, insemination volume and insemination substances. The induced changes include measurable behavioral, physiological and molecular alterations that occur, including differences in behavioral interactions between queens and worker bees.”
Niño has already met with many of the state's beekeepers, attended meetings of the California State Beekeepers' Association, the California Bee Breeders' Association, and the Almond Board of California, and charmed youngsters from the California School of the Blind, Fremont who asked many questions about honey bees.
“I love meeting people,” she said. She delights in answering questions, including those from inquisitive school children.
One of the most common questions: “Do you get stung?” Answer: “Yes, many times.”
Some don't know that all worker bees are females, that they do all the work. They are fascinated with the queen bee, which can lay as many as 2000 eggs a day during peak season. Once a youngster, thinking about the queen bee, asked: “What happened to the king?”
Bees are in a global decline due to pesticides, parasites, pests, malnutrition and stress. Niño says most people have heard of colony collapse disorder, and many know that the average beekeeper loses approximately 30 percent of the colonies each winter due to the combined effect of various pests, pathogens, environmental toxins, and poor nutrition.
“My research and extension goals are to provide stakeholders with practical tools that better equip them to confront these challenges. My primary research focus is to characterize biological factors that regulate honey bee queen reproduction. By better understanding these factors, we can improve the honey bee breeding protocols necessary for creating and maintaining resilient honey bee stock.”
Elina Niño wasn't always so devoted to bees. Born and reared in Bosnia in Eastern Europe, Elina moved to the United States with plans to become a veterinarian. She obtained her bachelor's degree in animal science at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., but while there, enrolled in an entomology class on the recommendation of her advisor. “I was hooked,” she recalled.
Following her graduation from Cornell in 2003, she received her master's degree in entomology from North Carolina State University and her doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University. While at Penn State, she sought to add to her applied-research expertise and gain experience in basic research. She joined the honey bee lab of Christina Grozinger, who studies the genomics of chemical communication and collaborates with researcher David Tarpy on understanding queen bee post-mating changes.
After attending her first lab meeting, “I was hooked again!” Niño recalled.
She and her fellow researchers confirmed that carbon dioxide causes queens to stop attempting mating flights and helps them start producing eggs. They also found that instrumental insemination triggers changes in Dufour's gland pheromone. Understanding the regulation of reproductive processes can lead to better management practices for improved colony productivity and health, Niño said.
Niño is now settled in Davis with her husband, Bernardo Niño, a former senior research technologist in the Grozinger lab and now a staff research associate at the Laidlaw facility; their toddler son, Sebastian; and their dog, a Doberman named Zoe.
Bernardo, who managed some 40 to 50 colonies at Penn State, received his bachelor's degree in biology from St. Edward's University, Austin, Texas; and his master's degree in entomology from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
Elina is building up her research team, which includes Bernardo; and staff research associate Billy Synk and doctoral candidate W. Cameron Jasper of the Brian Johnson lab.
“We view ourselves as the liaison between the beekeepers and other relevant growers and the scientific community,” Elina said. “We are continuing research on queen mating and reproduction, especially considering the importance of Northern California beekeepers for the queen rearing and bee breeding enterprises.”
They will expand their work to include studies “crucial for supporting honey bee health.” Current collaborate work includes examining the effects of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, Deformed Wing Virus and Nosema gene expression regulation and longevity in workers. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie individual responses to specific honey bee pathogens, Elina said, “can lead to the implementation of appropriate beekeeping practices.”
“In the near future, we plan to contribute to the general understanding of synergistic effects of pesticides on honey bee health and collaborate on research evaluating alternative Varroa mite control.”
Her lab not only aims to conduct applied research that leads to practical solutions, but to alert the state's beekeepers about new research, and develop web-based educational tools. She write the bimonthly newsletter, “from the UC apiaries,” appearing on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's website. In addition, she will be serving on various advisory boards to allow “us to guide decision making and legislation based on the most up to date scientific information.”
How would she describe herself? “Like a rock. I don't get easily disturbed. There's not a lot that fazes me. I find a way to figure out a problem and find a solution.”
Now she and her “Bee” team--that is, Bernardo and Billy--are gearing up for their inaugural queen bee rearing short-course March 28-29 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is open to beekeepers with basic bee experience who want to learn more about rearing queens.
Another pending activity: she'll be judging the California 4-H Honey Bee Essay Contest, “Planting for Bees from Backyards and Up” (http://preservationofhoneybees.org/essays) next February. The contest closes Feb. 20.
“California is a good place to bee,” she reiterated.