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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

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

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