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Posts Tagged: Norm Gary

What Will It Bee?

Barbara Allen-Diaz
What will it be? Wear bees or eat insects? Let’s do both!

UC ANR Vice-President Barbara Allen-Diaz promises to wear bees—honey bees—if she can raise $2500 by Thursday, Oct. 31 for the UC Promise for Education, a fundraising project to help needy UC students. See her promise page to donate.

Veteran professional bee wrangler Norm Gary, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, promises to come out of retirement (he retired from bee wrangling, academic service and beekeeping) to assist with the project.

If all goes well—that is, if Allen-Diaz can raise $2500 by Oct. 31--this bee stunt will take place next spring at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.

However, if she raises $5000, she will eat insects or insect larvae. Entomophagy!

We asked senior museum scientist and world traveler Steve Heydon of the Bohart Museum of Entomology if he has any insect-eating recommendations.

He does.

“Crickets,” he said. “Fresh-roasted crickets. They’re really good with a little salt.”

What about termites? “Termites don’t have that much of a taste,” Heydon said.

Norm Gary, who will be 80 years old next month, in his bees suit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beetle grubs, particularly the huge ones in New Guinea and Africa, are also considered good eats, Heydon said.

If Barbara Allen-Diaz needs a little practice, she can enjoy some insect-embedded lollipops available at the gift shop at the Bohart Museum, Room 1124 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane.  The choices are crickets, ants and scorpions. Heydon says the lollipops are especially popular as Christmas stocking stuffers. Cost? $3 each.

Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, has eaten butterflies, including Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae). “I’ve eaten several to see if they’re edible to me, ‘though I’m not a bird. They are (edible), but I prefer fried grasshoppers. Yum!"

And what do Cabbage Whites taste like? “Toilet paper,” Shapiro said.

“My former student Jim Fordyce--he has a background in chemical ecology--used to say that he would never work on a bug he hadn't tasted,” Shapiro related. “However, he did work on the Pipevine Swallowtail, which sequesters the two aristolochic acids, which are mutagenic, carcinogenic and can apparently cause kidney atrophy. So I hope he never swallowed it. Fortunately, it tastes awful, or so I hear--I haven't tried it. Female European Large Whites (Pieris brassicae) are somewhat unpalatable and may be the basis of a loose mimicry ring. Larvae of the Large White are gregarious, inedible and smell like spoiled corned beef and cabbage."

According to Wikipedia, more than 1000 species of insects “are known to be eaten in 80 percent of the world’s nations.” Wikpedia lists some of the most popular insects as crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, ants, various beetle grubs (such as mealworms), the larvae of the darkling beetle, various speces of caterpillars, scorpions and tarantulas.

Barbara Allen-Diaz hasn't indicated which insect or insect larvae she will select, but oh, the choices!

But first...the bee promise!

Norm Gary in his bee suit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Norm Gary in his bee suit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Norm Gary in his bee suit. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jumping up and down will dislodge the bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jumping up and down will dislodge the bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jumping up and down will dislodge the bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 8:51 PM

Ultimate Swarms

Zoologist/documentary host George McGavin (left) and emeritus entomology professor Norm Gary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was blazing hot that summer day in Winters, Calif.

The date: July 22, 2012. The place: a sunfiower field in Winters, Calif.

We watched as a BBC crew set up their cameras while professional bee wrangler Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, trained his bees for the documentary that would be titled "Ultimate Swarms."  

Documentary host/zoologist George McGavin of Oxford, England, (he's an honorary research associate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History), walked among the rows, rehearsing his lines.

Gary, who has wrangled bees for more than 40 years for movies, TV shows, and commercials (including approximately 18 movies, 70 or so TV shows, and about a half-dozen commercials) prepped McGavin about honey bee behavior.

The bees "are in a swarm state, completely non-aggressive," McGavin told the camera. "They're not protecting anything, not protecting their young or honey, simply protecting the queen in the heart of this swarm until a new home is found."

McGavin related that honey bees are worth "a staggering $180 billion a year, and without them over a third of all the food we eat wouldn't exist."

Honey bees are just one part of the one-hour "Ultimate Swarms," which will premiere at 8 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time and Pacific Time), Tuesday, Oct. 22 on the television show, Animal Planet.

A handful of bees, displayed by George McGavin. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The Animal Planet/BBC production "showcases some of the most extraordinary natural events on Earth, including one and a half million bats that emerge nightly from their home beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas and the 100-million crabs that turn Australia’s Christmas Island red during their annual swarm," according to the publicist. "Scientist George McGavin sets out to learn what drives creatures to flock together. Taking viewers deep into some of the natures greatest mysteries he uncovers the truth behind these huge gatherings by traveling the globe and surrounding himself with millions of animals at a time."

In one segment, McGavin becomes the queen bee, thanks to Norm Gary and a swarm of 40,000 worker bees  clustering on the host.

“Swarms," McGavin says, "are one of the greatest spectacles on earth.” Far from "being the ultimate nightmare, they are one of nature's most ingenious solutions."

"By joining together, even the most simplest of creatures can achieve the impossible," McGavin said.) 

As for Gary, who will be 80 next month, says this was his last shoot as a professional bee wrangler. Last month he retired from beekeeping, after 66 years of keeping bees. "Training bees to do the right behavior on cue gets very complicated and gave me the opportunity to apply science as well as practical 'in-the-trench' beekeeping operations," Gary said, describing bee wrangling as "making bees 'act' in various scenes as called for by the script."  A good example of his work is the bee scene in the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes.

However, Gary still has his specially patented pheromones (his invention), and he plans to come out of retirement to help UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Vice President Barbara Allen-Diaz fulfill her "promise for education" to help UC students in financial need. (See website to donate to the cause. If Allen-Diaz reaches her goal of $2500, the bee stunt will take place next spring at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis,)

Norm Gary's bee cluster in the middle of a sunflower field in Winters. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Norm Gary's bee cluster in the middle of a sunflower field in Winters. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Norm Gary's bee cluster in the middle of a sunflower field in Winters. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

BBC crew sets up in a Winters' sunflower field, as Norm Gary sprays sugar water on his bee cluster. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
BBC crew sets up in a Winters' sunflower field, as Norm Gary sprays sugar water on his bee cluster. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

BBC crew sets up in a Winters' sunflower field, as Norm Gary sprays sugar water on his bee cluster. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, October 21, 2013 at 10:39 PM

The Cause, Bee-Cause

Barbara Allen-Diaz
It's The Cause.

Bee-Cause.

It's great to see the world's most renowned bee wrangler, Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, come out of retirement to help out with a specific "UC Promise for Education" project spearheaded by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Vice President Barbara Allen-Diaz.


In her promise to help UC students in financial need, Allen-Diaz says that if she raises $2500 by Oct. 31 she'll wear bees. Maybe not on her head, but on a UC ANR T-shirt or a UC ANR banner she'll be holding. And if she raises $5000, she'll eat insect larvae.

Enter Norm Gary. He'll be 80 in November and he retired from beekeeping last month after 66 years (yes, 66 years) of beekeeping. He earlier retired from UC Davis (1994).  During his 32-year academic career, he did scientific bee research, wrote peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, crafted inventions, and wrangled bees.  

Norm Gary
As a professional bee wrangler, Norm Gary is the guy that Hollywood movie directors picked to train bees for their productions. He's also appeared on numerous TV shows, orchestrated bee cluster stunts, and periodically played his b-flat clarinet while wearing a full bee suit from head to toe. He once trained 109 bees to enter his mouth (he holds a Guinness Book of World Records for that). Read more about his accomplishments (UC Davis Entomology and Nematology website) and on his personal website.

If Allen-Diaz raises $2500, the stunt will take place next spring at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis. If she raises $5000, it will be time to devour some tasty insect larvae! 

You can donate $10, $15, $20, $100 or more by accessing Allen-Diaz' promise page. Just access http://promises.promiseforeducation.org/fundraise?fcid=269819.

You can also add a few comments as to why you're donating to help UC students. It could be in memory of a loved one, because you support the good work that UC ANR and Barbara Allen-Diaz do, or because you want to honor the amazing career of Norm Gary. 

Or, you just may want to help raise public awareness of our declining bee population.

As Allen-Diaz says: "I am a true believer in the importance of honey bees and the importance of bees as pollinators in our agricultural and wild ecosystems. The health of agriculture and the health of the planet depend on the health and survival of our honey bees."

Bee wrangler Norm Gary surrounded by bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee wrangler Norm Gary surrounded by bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee wrangler Norm Gary surrounded by bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A documentary crew prepares to film Norm Gary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A documentary crew prepares to film Norm Gary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A documentary crew prepares to film Norm Gary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 11:51 AM

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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