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Posts Tagged: Susan Cobey

A Bee Beard Like No Other

Bee scientists, beekeepers and bee photographers so love their bees that they can't get enough of them.

So when the international Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), comprised of communicators, educators and information technologists in agriculture, natural resources, and life and human sciences, issued a call for feature photos for its annual Critique & Awards Program, I thought why not?

Why not enter the photo of UC Davis visiting bee scientist Jakub Gabka of Poland wearing his bee beard? Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now of Washington State University, loves to do bee beard events, so one day, after hours, she set up a private bee beard event on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. A handful of beekeepers gleefully participated in an event meant to inform, educate and entertain.

Talk about getting close to the bees!

Jakub Gabka's reaction was priceless. Check out the eyes!

That's the photo I entered in the feature category. The judge awarded it first place (gold), scoring it 97 points out of a possible 100, and commented: "Wow! This is a show-stopper. Depending on your relationship with bees, this can either make you laugh or cause you to go into anaphylactic shock. The photographer did almost everything right here. From the position of the bees (Is that one going to crawl into his mouth?) to the expression on the subject's face, this is nearly perfect. Because I don't believe in perfection, I'd ask only that the flesh tones be a little warmer. Other than,  great image."

ACE presented the awards at its recent Portland (Ore.) conference, and the University of California communicators hauled home quite a few of them.

Other awards: yours truly received a gold for “best writing on the web” for the Bug Squad blog, "Thankful for Insects" and a bronze (third-place) award for "Looking Back at 2013, featuring a few favorite photos from 2013. 

Steve Heindl, Marissa Stein and Ray Lucas of Communication Services & Information Technology won gold in the Educational Package category for the online “Introduction to Forest Management” course they produced for Rick Standiford, UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. 

For promotional videos, ACE awarded silver for the UC Cooperative Extension centennial video. The video was produced by the UC Office of the President's multimedia team of Jessica Wheeler, Zach Long and Larissa Branin with direction from Pam Kan-Rice and Cynthia Kintigh of the UC ANR Communication Services and Information Technology (CSIT).

Grape Pest Management, Third Edition” won a silver award for technical publications for Larry J. Bettiga, UCCE Extension viticulture advisor in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, as technical editor, and CSIT editors Steve Barnett and Hazel White and CSIT designers Robin Walton and Will Suckow. They also received a bronze award for the reference book's design in the 2014 PubWest Book Design Award.

Congratulations to them all!

This photo of former UC Davis visiting bee scientist Jakub Gabka of Poland won the gold award for best feature photo, presented recently by international Association for Communication Excellence. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This photo of former UC Davis visiting bee scientist Jakub Gabka of Poland won the gold award for best feature photo, presented recently by international Association for Communication Excellence. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This photo of former UC Davis visiting bee scientist Jakub Gabka of Poland won the gold award for best feature photo, presented recently by international Association for Communication Excellence. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 9:16 PM

Now That's Italian!

Now that's Italian!

The Italian honey bee (below) nectaring on a zinnia at the University of California, Davis, is striking for two reasons: she's as gold as starthistle honey in the sunlight and she's a very young forager.

"That is a pretty young bee to be a forager," said Exension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "Look at all that baby hair."

When European colonists introduced honey bees (Apis mellifera) into the Jamestown colony (now Virginia) in 1622, it wasn't the Italian. It was what beekeepers call the "dark bee" subspecies of Northern Europe, Apis mellifera mellifera.

The Italian or Apis mellifera ligustica didn't arrive in America until 1859. "The American beekeeping public was enamored with the newly available yellow and gentle bees," bee breeder-geneticist and co-author Susan Cobey wrote in a chapter of the book, Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions. "As a result, Italian-type bees form  the basis for most present-day commercial beekeeping stocks in the U.S. Following the arrival and success of honey bees from Italy, U.S. beekeepers developed an interest to try other honey bee subspecies."

Indeed, it took 231 for years for honey bees to arrive in California. Beekeeper Christopher A. Shelton introduced honey bees to the Golden State in 1853, establishing an apiary just north of San Jose. (Check out the bee plaque at the San Jose International Airport.)

Cobey, of UC Davis acclaim, serves as the project leader of the Honey Bee Stock Improvement Program, working with Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, and other scientists.They aim to enhance the genetic diversity of domestic bee stocks through the importation of honey bee germplasm (drone sperm).

Meanwhile, this week over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk (who worked with Cobey at Ohio State University) is extracting honey.

If you look at the backlit honey, it looks just like the young Italian honey bee that Mussen says "is pretty young to be a forager."

Italian honey bee forages on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Italian honey bee forages on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Italian honey bee forages on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

UC Davis staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk admires a freshly bottled jar of honey to the sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
UC Davis staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk admires a freshly bottled jar of honey to the sun. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

UC Davis staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk admires a freshly bottled jar of honey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 9:48 PM

A Two-Fold Bee Conference

Seattle will be the place to "bee" on Oct. 4-7.

That's where the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) will hold its annual meeting--and this year it's in conjunction with the Washington State Beekeepers' Association.

Bee scientists, beekeepers, and bee aficionados will gather in the Embassy Suites Hotels for the four-day conference to talk about what's troubling the bees, to learn about scientific advancements, and to discuss how to alleviate the declining bee population. Registration is under way; those who register by Aug. 31 will receive a discount.

"There will be more presentations devoted to commercial beekeeping topics, but we will honor our roots and have concurrent sessions for the small-scale interests," said WAS spokesperson Fran Bach.

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, known for her queen bee-rearing and queen bee insemination classes at the University of California, Davis, and now affiliated with Washington State University, will speak on queen bee rearing in the Pacific Northwest.

As the project director of the Honey Bee Stock Improvement Program, Cobey continues to work closely with California beekeepers, queen bee producers and the Almond Board of California.

Cobey and her colleague Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, are heavily involved in increasing genetic diversity in U.S. honey bees. They're gathering germplasm (drone sperm) in European countries and integrating it in the U.S. honey bee gene pool, aiming to build a stronger, more disease-resistant bee.  

European colonists introduced the honey bee to America in 1622 but a genetic bottleneck occurred when the U. S. Honey Bee Act of 1922 restricted further importation.

"The selection, development, maintenance and adoption of highly productive European honey bee stocks that can tolerate Varroa (parasitic mites) and resist diseases offer a sustainable, long-term solution" to the ongoing declining bee population, they point out in their chapter of the newly published book, Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions.

At the Seattle conference, Sheppard will speak on "Importation and Distribution of New Genetic Stocks of Honey Bees."  WSU doctoral student Megan Taylor will discuss "New Developments in Honey Bee Germplasm Preservation at WSU."  Another WSU doctoral student, Brandon Hopkins, will cover "New Developments in Honey Bee Germplasm Preservation at WSU." 

Other speakers will discuss "The Value of Honey Bees in Almond Production," "Wings, Bikes and Trucks--Urban Beekeeping," "Indoor Wintering of Honey Bee Colonies," and "The Rocky Mountain Survivor Queenbee Cooperative." Still other talks range from how to prevent swarms to how to bring more bees to your garden. 

WAS co-founder Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology, describes the organization as "a non-profit, educational, beekeeping organization founded in 1978 for the benefit and enjoyment of all beekeepers in western North America."

This photo of a honey bee on an almond blossom will appear on the WAS conference t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This photo of a honey bee on an almond blossom will appear on the WAS conference t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

This photo of a honey bee on an almond blossom will appear on the WAS conference t-shirt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 10:08 PM

Off to Italy on a Very Important Mission

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey with queen cells. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It won't be lock, stock and barrel, but it will be stock.

A team of scientists from UC Davis and Washington State University will be heading for Italy tomorrow (June 19) to gather germplasm (sperm) of Old World/Italian honey bee stock. They'll bring it back to the United States to inseminate bee queens. 

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who has a joint appointment at UC Davis and WSU, will be in Italy with colleagues Walter "Steve" Sheppard, professor and chair of the WSU Department of Entomology, and Ph.D. student Brandon Hopkins of WSU. They're scheduled to return June 27.

Increasing the overall genetic diversity of honey bees may lead to healthier and hardier bees that can better fight off parasites, pathogens and pests, says Cobey, director of the Honey Bee Stock Improvement Program. Just as stock improvement has served the poultry, dairy and swine industries well, the beekeeping industry needs access “to stocks of origin or standardized evaluation and stock improvement programs.”

So, which honey bee did the European colonists introduce to America in 1622? It wasn't the Italian (blond) subspecies, now the most prevalent here. It was the dark subspecies (Apis mellifera mellifera), that made its way to the Jamestown colony (present-day Virginia) from England. 

 The Italian bees were not introduced into our country until 1859, records show.

"The American beekeeping pubic was enamored with the newly available yellow and relatively gentle bees," authors Cobey, Sheppard and David Tarpy wrote in a chapter of the newly published book,  Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions. "As a result, Italian-type honey bees form the basis for most present-day commercial beekeeping stocks in the U.S." 

However, a genetic bottleneck resulted from the U.S. Honey Bee Act of 1922, which restricted further importation of Old World honey bees to prevent the introduction of the tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi.

The importation of germplasm from the Old World stock of the Italian subspecies could very well result in a better bee.

That's the plan. That's the hope. The trio wants to make it happen.

The UC Davis/WSU team will fan out to bee labs and to commercial beekeepers' apiaries  and then deliver the germplasm to the WSU lab in Pullman, Wash., where they'll inseminate queen bees.

Cobey talked about the Stock Improvement Program at her May 2nd seminar presented to the UC Davis Department of Entomology.  Based at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility since 2007, she was trained by Laidlaw (1907-2003) himself. He's known as "the father of honey bee genetics."

If you access this web page, then click on the link at the top of the page below the headline, you can listen to Cobey's seminar. 

Fascinating stuff.

Italian honey bee heading toward lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Italian honey bee heading toward lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Italian honey bee heading toward lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, June 18, 2012 at 9:25 PM

Pollinator Paradise

Pollinator Habitat
Picture a pollinator paradise right where nature intended it to be--near an apiary.

Staff research associate/beekeeper Elizabeth Frost of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, earlier this year planted a pollinator patch in front of the facility--and what an eyecatcher it is.

She selected California golden poppies, lupine and foxgloves, among other choices. When spring emerged, the Laidlaw facility never looked so brilliant! Especially in front of the Laidlaw ceramic sign created by Donna Billick of Davis. 

Frost posted a "Pollinator Habitat" sign in front that reads: "This area has been planted with a range of flowering native plants to provide high quality habitat for native bees and other pollinators. To learn how you can create good habitat for pollinators, please visit www.xerces.org.

Frost, a UC Davis graduate who joined the bee lab in 2008 and worked with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, recently accepted a position on the Honey Bee Tech-Transfer Team, part of the Bee Informed Partnership. So, starting Sept. 1 Frost will be based at the Cooperative Extension office in Butte County.

What is the Bee Informed Partnership? To quote from the website, "It's an extension project that endeavors to decrease the number of managed honey bee colonies that die over the winter."

"Since the winter of 2006 - 2007, overwintering colonies in the US have died in large numbers. Affected beekeepers span the entire spectrum of the industry: migratory beekeepers to stationary beekeepers; and commercial beekeepers, part-time beekeepers, to backyard beekeepers. Migratory and stationary beekeepers alike have, on average, lost 30% or more of their overwintering colonies over the last several years. These losses are unsustainable. If they continue, they threaten not only the livelihoods of beekeepers who manage bees, but the livelihood of farmers who require bees to pollinate their crops."

Check out the Bee Informed team! And read their comments on why they like working with bees! 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...er, the Laidlaw facility...the pollinators are populating the poppies. On any given day, you can see honey bees, drone flies, hover flies, dragonflies and butterflies.

Plant it and they will come.

Beekeeper Elizabeth Frost in front of the pollinator patch she planted. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beekeeper Elizabeth Frost in front of the pollinator patch she planted. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Beekeeper Elizabeth Frost in front of the pollinator patch she planted. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Flame skimmer dragonfly rests on an unopened poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Flame skimmer dragonfly rests on an unopened poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Flame skimmer dragonfly rests on an unopened poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Drone fly crawls up a petal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Drone fly crawls up a petal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Drone fly crawls up a petal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging on a California golden poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on a California golden poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging on a California golden poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 10:08 PM

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