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Posts Tagged: Norm Gary

It's National Pollinator Week!

Honey bee on zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's National Pollinator Week! Do you know where your pollinators are?

It was good to see the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) conduct its recent "Be a Scientist" project. Thousands of participants across the state counted pollinators (and also mapped places where food is grown and checked off the ways they are conserving water), according to Pam Kan-Rice, assistant director, News and Information Outreach, UC ANR.

In a news release posted this week, she reported that "10,697 people counted pollinators, including bees, butterflies, bird and even a few bats."

“It's encouraging to see so many Californians interested in pollinators because they play a vital role in producing food,” said Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, in the news release. “People are conserving water in many different ways, which is important because water is a limited resource even in non-drought years. And, surprisingly, almost half of the people participating in our survey said they grow food.”

"Preliminary results," Kan-Rice reported, "show that people counted 37,961 pollinators in a three-minute period. Flies were by far the most abundant, accounting for 79 percent of the pollinators counted."

Meanwhile, on the national level, the Pollinator Partnership announced that National Pollinator Week, established by U.S. Congress in 2007, is growing by leaps and bounds. (Or maybe by wings and feet.)

In a press release, the Pollinator Partnership officials wrote: "Pollinators, like bees, butterflies, birds and other animals, bring us one in every three bites of food, protect our environment. They form the underpinnings of a healthy and sustainable future."

One of the many ways we can protect our pollinators is to pass the Highways BEE Act, introduced in Congress by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), co-chairs of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus (CP2C), to create and/or preserve pollinator habitat along our highways. Individuals, along with regional and local organizations, are signing an online petition at http://www.pollinator.org/BEEAct.htm.

BEE is an acronym for "Bettering the Economy and Environment" Pollinator Protection Act.

And at the UC Davis level, the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is hosting an open house at its Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Friday night, June 20, in observation of National Pollinator Week. The event, free and open to the public, will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Visitors will receive zinnia seeds until they're all gone.

The bee garden, installed next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility in the fall of 2009 with generous financial support from the premier ice cream company, is a year-around food source for bees and is also intended to raise public awareness of the plight of the honey bees and to provide ideas on what to plant in our own gardens.

When you walk through the front gates, you'll immediately see the six-foot-long mosaic ceramic honey bee created by self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. It's anatomically correct right down to the wax glands.

Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who recently retired as a professional bee wrangler, talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC ANR vice president. The bee sculpture, in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is the work of Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who recently retired as a professional bee wrangler, talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC ANR vice president. The bee sculpture, in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is the work of Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who recently retired as a professional bee wrangler, talks bees with Barbara Allen-Diaz, UC ANR vice president. The bee sculpture, in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is the work of Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

That's one pollinator! Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC ANR, holds up a finger designating one pollinator. This is Donna Billick's bee sculpture in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It was funded by Wells Fargo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
That's one pollinator! Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC ANR, holds up a finger designating one pollinator. This is Donna Billick's bee sculpture in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It was funded by Wells Fargo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

That's one pollinator! Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of UC ANR, holds up a finger designating one pollinator. This is Donna Billick's bee sculpture in the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. It was funded by Wells Fargo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 10:26 PM

Bee Stunt: A First and a Last

Norm Gary adds his special nectar to a sponge held by Barbara Allen-Diaz. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was Norm Gary's last bee wrangling stunt. And it was Barbara Allen-Diaz' first close-up encounter with bees.

The occasion: Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), was on the UC Davis campus recently to fulfill her UC Promise for Education. Last October she vowed that if she received $2500 in contributions for UC students, she would wear honey bees. Actually, she not only reached her goal but surpassed it.

Enter Norm Gary, no doubt the world's best bee wrangler until his retirement last year.  A UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology (specializing in apiculture or bee science), he showed that his work is definitely buzzworthy: he kept bees for 66 years, researched bees, wrote about them in peer-reviewed publications and popular books, and appeared in movies, TV shows, commercials, and fairs and festivals and other special events.

So, he volunteered to come out of retirement and train a few  bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility to land on a nectar-soaked sponge, which he then transferred to Allen-Diaz' hand.

"I wanted to help her communicate the importance of honey bees to everyone, regarding pollination, research on pollination and teaching of bees and I wanted to help her do this by showing her how much fun it is to work with bees," he told videographer Ray Lucas of UC ANR.  (See video.) The artificial nectar he used was a special one he patented.

"It was no threat," he said. For the bees it was "like kids in an ice cream store."

Allen-Diaz graciously thanked all her supporters. "I wanted to promise to do something that would highlight this incredibly important part of our ecosystem." (See video.)

Honey bee sipping nectar from a saturated sponge. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
As for Norm Gary, he reiterated this was his last stunt. His professional bee wrangler career spanned four decades. His credits 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.

He 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. He is well known for wearing a head-to-toe suit of bees while "Buzzing with his B-Flat Clarinet." 

What now? At the young age of 80, he says he's "devoting the rest of my life to music."

He's in a duo, Mellow Fellas, and plays clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute. 

"For the last two years I have also been performing in a Dixieland band, Dr. Bach and the Jazz Practitioners. We are playing lots of gigs in every imaginable venue," he said. "Our most notable performances are at the Sacramento Music Festival, a four-day event held each Memorial Day weekend.  We also perform at pizza parlors, senior retirement organizations, etc.  We play swing-music style, too. " 

Gary also performs with a quartet, Four For Fun, that has eclectic tastes, but most tunes, he says, have a Dixieland flavor.  "I still play duo gigs with several piano/keyboard professionals.  And I play clarinet occasionally with the Sacramento Banjo Band."

The "B" flat clarinet, of course.

A handful of bees, held by Barbara Allen-Diaz. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A handful of bees, held by Barbara Allen-Diaz. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A handful of bees, held by Barbara Allen-Diaz. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Norm Gary shows Barbara Allen-Diaz the sign in front of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is the work of Davis artist Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Norm Gary shows Barbara Allen-Diaz the sign in front of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is the work of Davis artist Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Norm Gary shows Barbara Allen-Diaz the sign in front of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is the work of Davis artist Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Barbara Allen-Diaz and Norm Gary talk bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Barbara Allen-Diaz and Norm Gary talk bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Barbara Allen-Diaz and Norm Gary talk bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 8:38 PM

Bee-ing There and Bee-Lieving in the Bees

Pam Kan-Rice photographs bees in a bowl of artificial nectar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Just call it a "practice run." Or a "buzz run."

Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) vowed last year to wear bees if she received at least $2500 in donations for UC student scholarships through the "Promise for Education" fundraising drive.

She did and she will. Wear honey bees that is. This week. Bee-lieve it.

Allen-Diaz chose her project to highlight the importance of pollinators to the health of agriculture and the planet.

Professional bee wrangler Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology and retired bee research scientist at UC Davis, will train bees to buzz into her open hands to sip nectar.

The event, dubbed "Operation Pollination," also will be his last professional bee stunt. "This is absolutely my last performance as a professional bee wrangler," said Gary,  considered the world's best bee wrangler.  "The remainder of my retirement years will be devoted to music, not bees."

Photos and/or video from the event are scheduled be posted on social media sometime Thursday, May 1.

So last week, the "B" Team did a buzz run. The "B" Team, led by Gary, included Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, yours truly and three members of UC ANR:

  • Pam Kan-Rice, assistant director, News and Information Outreach 
Communication Services and Information Technology
  • Ray Lucas, senior producer/director, Digital Media, and
  • Evett Kilmartin, digital media librarian.

Norm Gary will give up professional bee wrangling for his music. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We all watched as Gary applied his patented artificial nectar to the  Kan-Rice's outstretched hands. His "girls" lapped up the nectar and sought more.

Was Kan-Rice a little apprehensive? Not at all. A former ag reporter based in Fresno, she felt quite comfortable around them, as Gary assured her she would.  "They felt fuzzy, wuzzy and warm," she said, adding matter-of-factly: "I've never been stung by a bee."

The artificial nectar? "I make it with ordinary table sugar … about half sugar and half water," Gary said. "Then I add one tiny drop for flavoring, such as anise, that provides a fragrance that attracts bees.  Almost any flavor will work fine … peppermint, lavender, etc.  My artificial nectar is as good, maybe better, than natural nectar.  At least the bees respond 100 percent!  People don't realize that table sugar (sucrose) is perhaps the purest natural product on the market.  It is identical to the sucrose found in natural nectar."

Gary retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career.  He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed research publications and most recently wrote a book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist: the Care and Keeping of Bees.

During his professional bee wrangler career spanning four decades,  Gary trained bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. His credits 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.

He 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. He is well known for wearing a head-to-toe suit of bees while "Buzzing with his B-Flat Clarinet."

So, come Thursday, the social insects in the hands of Barbara Allen-Diaz will be on the social media.

"This is absolutely my last performance as a professional bee wrangler," Norm Gary says.
Meanwhile, Gary and Mussen are offering her advice, suggesting she wear pastel colors and no perfume.

"Foraging bees do not react defensively to color whatsoever," Gary said. "Beekeepers wear white because bees can be defensive during hive manipulations and tend to react to darker colors...bees away from the hive during foraging and pollination normally do not sting unless physically molested, such as picking them up.  Most stings are from yellow jackets and wasps but lay people think they have been stung by a bee."

Said Mussen: '"The few 'trained' bees that Norm will be using won't even be around a hive.  Their likelihood of stinging anything or anyone is as close to zero as it can get, as long as we 'beehave.'  No jerky movements.  No swatting at bees around the face; no blowing the bees away from your face."

After Gary's last bee wrangling stunt, he will be totally focused on his music. He's in a duo, Mellow Fellas, and plays clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, and flute. 

"For the last two years I have also been performing in a Dixieland band, Dr. Bach and the Jazz Practitioners. We are playing lots of gigs in every imaginable venue.  Our most notable performances are at the Sacramento Music Festival, a four-day event held each Memorial Day weekend.  We also perform at pizza parlors, senior retirement organizations, etc.  We play swing-music style, too. " 

Gary also performs with a quartet, Four For Fun, that has eclectic tastes, but most tunes, he says, have a Dixieland flavor.  "We'll perform for the Monterey Jazz Society on May 18.  Our bass sax and trumpet players are extremely talented ladies who live in Eugene, Ore.  Our banjo/guitarist/vocalist lives in Sonoma.  I still play duo gigs with several piano/keyboard professionals.  And I play clarinet occasionally with the Sacramento Banjo Band."

That would be the "B" flat clarinet. 

Honey bees in the hands of Pam Kan-Rice. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees in the hands of Pam Kan-Rice. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bees in the hands of Pam Kan-Rice. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Making a beeline for her watch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Making a beeline for her watch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Making a beeline for her watch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee watch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee watch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee watch. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bees are drawn to the special artificial nectar placed on a plastic plant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bees are drawn to the special artificial nectar placed on a plastic plant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bees are drawn to the special artificial nectar placed on a plastic plant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, April 28, 2014 at 10:30 PM

Hurrah for the Red, White and Blue!

It's the Fourth of July--a time to celebrate our nation's Independence Day.

Hurrah for the red, white and blue!

That also covers red, white and blue pollen collected by our honey bees.

If you look closely, you'll see their "patriotic" colors.

"The importance of pollen to the health and vigor of the honey bee colony cannot be overstated," writes emeritus entomology professor Norman Gary of the University of California, Davis, in his best-selling book, "Honey Bee Hobbyist, The Care and Keeping of Bees."

"Honey satisfies the bees' carbohydrate requirements, while all of the other nutrients---minerals, proteins, vitamins and fatty substances--are derived from pollen. Nurse bees consume large amounts of pollen, converting it into nutritious secretions that are fed to developing larvae. During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers and consumes about 77 pounds of pollen."

Gary adds: "Pollen in the plant world is the equivalent of sperm in the animal world. Fertilization and growth of seeds depends upon the transfer of pollen from the male flower parts (anthers) to the receptive female parts (stigmas)."

Our honey bees are not native to America, but they've been here so long that many people think they are. European colonists brought them here to Jamestown Colony, Virginia, in 1622. Honey bees were established here before our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

So, today, a time to celebrate the Fourth and a time to celebrate our honey bees, Apis mellifera.

Honey bee packing red pollen from a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee packing red pollen from a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee packing red pollen from a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of white pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of white pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Close-up of white pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue pollen from a bird's eye blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue pollen from a bird's eye blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Blue pollen from a bird's eye blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 8:12 AM

Bee-ing Young

Pity the poor worker bee.

In the spring/summer months, she lives only four to six weeks and then she dies. Bee scientists say she basically works herself to death. 

For the first half of her short life, she works inside the hive, tending to the brood, feeding the queen and drones, processing the food, building and repairing the nest, and completing other responsibilities, all in total darkness. In the second half of her life, she leaves the hive, emerging from the total darkness to the bright light. Weather permitting, she'll forage every day for food, propolis or water for the colony.

You've probably noticed these older foragers, with tattered wings, scarred bodies and hairless thoraxes, foraging among the flowers.  Those tattered wings could be the result of predators that missed: spiders, dragonflies, grasshoppers, dogs, birds and the like. 

Worker bees do not fly well with flawed wings and they're even more susceptible to those crafty jumping spiders lurking in the flowers.

So it's interesting to read the recently published research by scientists at the Arizona State University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, research that shows that older honey bees experience reverse brain aging when they return to working inside the hive.

Writing in the journal, Experimental Gerontology, the researchers related that they tricked the older, foraging bees into returning to the hive to perform the social tasks of the younger bees.

In an ASU news release:  Gro Amdam, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, said:  “We knew from previous research that when bees stay in the nest and take care of larvae--the bee babies--they remain mentally competent for as long as we observe them. However, after a period of nursing, bees fly out gathering food and begin aging very quickly. After just two weeks, foraging bees have worn wings, hairless bodies, and more importantly, lose brain function--basically measured as the ability to learn new things. We wanted to find out if there was plasticity in this aging pattern so we asked the question, What would happen if we asked the foraging bees to take care of larval babies again?"

Well, they found that the older bees that returned to the hive seemed to recover their ability to learn, and that the protein in the bee brains changed for the better. 

"When comparing the brains of the bees that improved relative to those that did not, two proteins noticeably changed," the news release said. "They found Prx6, a protein also found in humans that can help protect against dementia--including diseases such as Alzheimer’s--and they discovered a second and documented 'chaperone' protein that protects other proteins from being damaged when brain or other tissues are exposed to cell-level stress."

In some respects, you could almost say that stay-at-home moms are better off than the work-outside-the-home moms, but (1) worker bees are not moms, and (2) both are working.  The queen lays the eggs, as many as 2000 eggs a day during peak season. The worker bees are females, but their ovaries are tiny and normally non-functional, says Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC  Davis in his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.

Still, we can imagine that this fascinating bee science research could lead to another tool to investigate dementia in elderly humans.

Worker bees working inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Worker bees working inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Worker bees working inside the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This worker bee, with tattered and torn wings, still keeps foraging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This worker bee, with tattered and torn wings, still keeps foraging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This worker bee, with tattered and torn wings, still keeps foraging. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, July 9, 2012 at 9:49 PM

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