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Posts Tagged: Susan Cobey

Just Bee-Cause

Newly emerged honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
In recent years, honey bees received neither recognition nor respect until commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Pennsylvania/Florida sounded the alarm in 2006 about his missing honey bees.

His bees went MIA due to a mysterious phenomenon we now know as colony collapse disorder (CCD), characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive and leaving behind the queen, nurse bees, brood and food stores. Without the adult workers bringing in nectar, pollen, propolis and water, the hive collapses.

Today, just above everybody knows about the declining honey bee population and the importance of improving bee health and safeguarding their pollination services.

So it was with great relevance that when a UC Davis team asked for photos of "Women Feeding the World: Farmers, Mothers and CEOs" that the images included beekeepers.

The campuswide project gained huge momentum. The photos traveled from a campus display at the Memorial Union to  the Modern Farmer magazine, to the Weather Channel and then to CBC.

Brenda Dawson, communications coordinator for the Horticulture Innovation Lab, formerly the Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP), spearheaded much of the project, which spotlights,  elevates and praises the status of women involved in food production throughout the world. 

In the olden days, women in agriculture were considered "farmer's wives" or "farmer's daughters," but rarely farmers.

Farmers they are. They always were. UC Davis illuminated them.

The project featured four images of beekeepers, ranging from women in California and Washington state to Bolivia and  Botswana.

They included bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of Washington State University, formerly of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis; commercial bee queen breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, a past president of the California State Apiary Board and the California State Beekeepers' Association; Queen Turner, former Humphrey Fellow at UC Davis and  the head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government (Kathy Keatley Garvey photos), as well as an image of Bolivian beekeepers taken by former Peace Corps volunteer Britta L. Hansen of the Horticulture Innovation Lab.

Dawson lauded the many campus and community organizations that "came together" to sponsor the event and its online gallery and campus display,  including several units from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: the Blum Center, Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program, International Programs Office, and Program in International and Community Nutrition. Additional sponsors include the World Food Center, Office of Campus Community Relations, Women's Resources and Research Center, and the off-campus organization Freedom from Hunger.

CBC described the images as "powerful photos" of women feeding the world.

That they are. And they're especially significant because March 8 is International Women's Day.

Queen Turner inspects the beekeeping operation on the rooftop of the San Francisco Chronicle. Turner completed a 10-month stay in the U.S. and returned to Botswana where she is head of the beekeeping section of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Botswana government. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Queen Turner inspects the beekeeping operation on the rooftop of the San Francisco Chronicle. Turner completed a 10-month stay in the U.S. and returned to Botswana where she is head of the beekeeping section of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Botswana government. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Queen Turner inspects the beekeeping operation on the rooftop of the San Francisco Chronicle. Turner completed a 10-month stay in the U.S. and returned to Botswana where she is head of the beekeeping section of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Botswana government. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, formerly of UC Davis and now of Washington State University, examines a frame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, formerly of UC Davis and now of Washington State University, examines a frame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, formerly of UC Davis and now of Washington State University, examines a frame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 11:12 PM

Susan Cobey: Queen Rearing and Instrumental Insemination

Instrumental insemination. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We know when spring approaches by the number of information requests we receive for bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey's popular queen bee-rearing and instrumental insemination classes.

Cobey, former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, and now with Washington State University (WSU),  is an international authority on instrumental insemination. She's perfected and taught the specialized technique of instrumental insemination for more than three decades. 

Based on Whidbey Island, Wash., Cobey maintains the New World Carniolan Closed Population Breeding Program, now in its 32rd generation. Her  independent research program focuses on the post-insemination maintenance of queens and the selection of behavioral traits at the colony level. 

Cobey currently coordinates the WSU collaborative stock improvement and  maintenance program, partnering with California queen producers.  A focus is the incorporation of germplasm (sperm) collected from Old World European honey bees into domestic breeding stocks to enhance U.S. honey bees. Much has been written about the germplasm repository established at WSU.

The recipient  of numerous honors and awards, Cobey presents her work nationally and internationally at numerous conferences and seminars, and publishes extensively in trade journals and professional peer-reviewed publications. Her credentials include the former management of several bee research labs, including those at UC Davis and Ohio State University.  She has also worked at the USDA Honey Bee Lab, Baton Rouge, and in commercial queen production in Florida and  California.  Cobey studied with Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., for whom the UC Davis research facility is named. She founded and operated a queen production business, Vaca Valley Apiaries, in northern California (Vacaville, Solano County).

Queen Rearing. Cobey now offers queen rearing classes through WSU. See http://entomology.wsu.edu/apis/. She teaches how to rear high-quality queens in workshops offered by the WSU Honey Bee Program.
 
Instrumental Insemination. Cobey is teaching insemination classes privately on Whidbey Island.  See http://honeybeeinsemination.com. Currently she's scheduling small classes, of one to three people, in July and August. These intensive classes provide individual attention designed to address specific needs at all levels, including advanced classes,  to increase efficiency and trouble-shoot. Cobey manages an onsite breeding apiary, which she uses to demonstrate queen and drone management.  Her classes draw people all over the world. Among them: researchers and beekeepers operating a breeding program or research project requiring controlled mating. A strong background in beekeeping and queen rearing  is required to enroll in these classes.  Participants are asked to bring their own instrument. Instrument rental and purchase are available with prior arrangement. "There is no instrument standardization," she said, "so  please inquire for an evaluation and/or upgrade on equipment to suit your needs."  She will provide microscopes and lights  and supply virgin  queens and drones.  For further information, prospective students may contact Cobey at scobey@mac.com or message her at (530) 554-2527. 

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey (kneeling at right) at one of her queen bee-rearing classes at UC Davis. (Photo by  Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey (kneeling at right) at one of her queen bee-rearing classes at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey (kneeling at right) at one of her queen bee-rearing classes at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Susan Cobey (right) adding bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Susan Cobey (right) adding bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Susan Cobey (right) adding bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A healthy frame of bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A healthy frame of bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A healthy frame of bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 9:27 PM

Women Who Keep Bees: Part of 'Women Feeding the World' Display at UC Davis

Beekeepers in Bolivia tending their hives. (Photo by Britta L. Hansen)
One is a renowned bee scientist based in Washington state.

One is a noted commercial queen bee breeder in California.

One is the head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government.

And two are beekeepers in Bolivia.

Washington, California, Botswana and Bolivia...

They all have at least two things in common: (1) they are women who work with bees and (2) they form part of the UC Davis "Women Feeding the World: Farmers, Mothers and CEOs" online photo gallery.

Meet bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of Washington State University, formerly of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. 

Meet commercial bee queen breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, a past president of the California State Apiary Board and the California State Beekeepers' Association.

Meet Queen Turner, former Humphrey Fellow at UC Davis and  the head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government.

And meet the two beekeepers in Bolivia through the eyes of former Peace Corps volunteer Britta L. Hansen, now a staff member with Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (Horticulture CRSP), one of the sponsors of the project.

How did this all come to "bee"?

Brenda Dawson, communicators coordinator for the Horticulture CRSP, says a number of campus and community organizations came together to sponsor the event and its gallery, including several units from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: the Blum Center, Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program, International Programs Office, and Program in International and Community Nutrition. Additional sponsors include the World Food Center, Office of Campus Community Relations, Women's Resources and Research Center, and the off-campus organization Freedom from Hunger.

Of the approximately 80 photos submitted by faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members, 12 were selected for display on the first floor of the Coffee House, UC Davis Memorial Union. One depicts Cobey holding a frame of bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.  Dawson said the display, which can be viewed until the end of the winter quarter, is part of this year's Campus Community Book Project focusing on "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," authored by the husband-wife team of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. 

"The photos depict women in a variety of roles related to food—including bean farmers, beekeepers and breastfeeding mothers—in California and around the world."

A thumbnail sketch:

Susan Cobey. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, is internationally renowned for her expertise on queen bee-rearing and for her classes on instrumental queen bee insemination. Honey bees are her passion. She studied with Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. at UC Davis. Cobey is now a bee breeder-geneticist at Washington State University but stays involved with California queen bee breeders, the Almond Board of California, and the California State Beekeepers' Association. One third of the American diet is pollinated by bees. Without bees, we'd be reduced to eating grains like wheat (wind-pollinated). 

Jackie Park-Burris. Jackie Park-Burris, owner of Jackie-Park Burris Queens, Palo Cedro, wears many hats besides her bee veil. She is a commercial queen bee breeder, a second-generation beekeeper, a past president of the five-member California State Apiary Board, a past president of the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA), a past president of the California Bee Breeders' Association, and a past president of the Shasta Beekeepers. She purchased the queen-rearing portion of her parents' business when her father, Jack Park, passed away. In 1997, she was selected the CSBA Young Beekeeper of the Year, and in 2009, the CSBA Beekeeper of the Year. She and her cousins Steve Park and Glenda Wooten are the only second-generation beekeepers to have received the CSBA Beekeeper of the Year.  CSBA presented it to her father in 1979 and her uncle, Homer Park, in 1971. Both are also past presidents of CBBA and CSBA. There are now six Park family descendants on CSBA's perpetual trophy, Beekeeper of the Year. 

Queen Turner. Queen Turner is head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government. As a Humphrey fellow, Queen Turner completed a 10-month stay in the United States, which included studies at UC Davis. She attended many classes and seminars last year and presented a lecture on "Beekeeping in Botswana" to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. One of her activities was inspecting the beekeeping operation on the rooftop of the San Francisco Chronicle. After completing her Humphrey fellowship, she returned to Botswana last June.  The word for bee in her native language, Setswana, is "notshi." 

Bolivian Beekeepers. Former Peace Corps volunteer Britta L. Hansen, now with the UC Davis Horticulture CRSP, worked with a group of female beekeepers in Bolivia and captured this photo of two beekeepers in 2008. "We received funding to help the women purchase Langstroth style hives that were made in Bolivia," Hansen related. "Sara was the secretary of the group, and she and I drove into the regional capital to pick up the hives and transport them back to our community of Paredones."  

Be sure to check out the online photo gallery and the display at the Memorial Union of "Women Feeding the World." Great project!

Bee scientist Susan Cobey holds a frame of bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley) Garvey)
Bee scientist Susan Cobey holds a frame of bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley) Garvey)

Bee scientist Susan Cobey holds a frame of bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley)

Commercial queen bee breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro opens a hive to a UC Davis class. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Commercial queen bee breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro opens a hive to a UC Davis class. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Commercial queen bee breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro opens a hive to a UC Davis class. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Queen Turner, head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government, inspected hives on the roof of the San Francisco Chronicle. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Queen Turner, head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government, inspected hives on the roof of the San Francisco Chronicle. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Queen Turner, head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government, inspected hives on the roof of the San Francisco Chronicle. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 10:36 PM

The Queen of the Queen Bees

Queen bee insemination. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Great to see the Wall Street Journal feature bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey in its Oct. 1st piece, "A Scientist Teaches Drones and Queens the Birds and the Bees."

Sue Cobey is world renowned for her work in trying "to build a better bee." With colleagues, she collects drone semen throughout Europe and deposits it in Washington State University's honey bee germplasm repository, aka "the world's first bee sperm bank."  Cobey works closely with entomologist Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the WSU Department of Entomology.

Cobey is renowned, too, for teaching courses on queen bee insemination and queen bee-rearing courses. She draws students from all over the world, and there's always, always, a waiting list.

We first met Sue in May 2007 when she began managing the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis (she's now based at WSU). 

You won't find anyone, anywhere, more passionate about honey bees or the need for diversity. Or the need to protect them. In October 2010, she told us that her overall goal "is to improve colony health to supply the critical and demanding need for pollination of the nation's agricultural crops."

Reporter Joel Millman of the Wall Street Journal successfully captures Cobey's passion. 

Cobey talks about queen bee insemination, why bees are in trouble, and why the United States needs to unplug the genetic bottleneck. Honey bees, you see, are not natives. European colonists brought them to what is now the United States in 1622.  Indeed, honey bees didn't arrive in California until 1853.

Cobey is especially fond of the subspecies, the Carniolans, originating from Slovenia. But she also works with Caucasians from the country of Georgia, and the Italians, the most common bee reared in the United States. To paraphrase Will Rogers, she's never found a bee she didn't like.

We are continually asked if Cobey still offers queen bee insemination classes. Yes, she does, but they're small, private classes. She will offer the classes in July and August. She also plans to teach a queen-rearing class at Mt. Vernon, Wash.. Dates not set. (She can be reached at scobey@mac.com)

Meanwhile, Cobey is working her hives on Whidbey Island and doing research at WSU. And enjoying every minute of it.

The Queen Bee of the Queen Bees--that she is.

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)


"Queen of the Queen Bees" Susan Cobey checking the hives at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

"Queen of the Queen Bees" Susan Cobey checking the hives at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

These are Carniolans, which Susan Cobey rears. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
These are Carniolans, which Susan Cobey rears. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

These are Carniolans, which Susan Cobey rears. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 10:44 PM

To Bee or Not To Bee?

To bee or not to bee?

That was not the question. There was no question. The answer was "yes" before the event began.

When visiting bee scientist Jakub Gabka of Warsaw, Poland, studied at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis last summer with noted bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, she held a bee beard event for the Laidlaw crew.

Gabka struck this pose--which graces the cover of the current edition of  American Bee Journal.

How did it feel? It’s heavy, it's hot, and it tickles, he said.

Cobey, now a bee researcher at Washington State University (she also teaches queen bee insemination classes and queen bee rearing classes), loves doing bee beard events.

It’s an educational and entertaining activity best done in the spring when the nectar flow is heavy, when the temperatures are optimum, and when the bees “are fat and happy,” she says.

You do not want to try this at home. Only beekeepers should do this, and with a seasoned bee beard coordinator. Proper knowledge, preparations and training of the bees are crucial.  A novice, unaccustomed to being around bees, might freak out. Literally.

“The fact that honey bees are venomous insects with the ability to sting when threatened, must be respected,” Cobey says.

Cobey has organized bee beard venues at a number of places, including Ohio State University’s Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Laboratory and the Laidlaw facility (her former workplaces), and in Washington state, where she and her husband, Tim Lawrence, a county Extension director, now reside. (See her research lecture, "Enhancing Genetic Diversity in the U.S. Honey Bee Gene Pool" on the Lewis County (Wash.) Beekeepers' Association website), along with more bee beard photos.)

Beekeepers are passionate about their fascination with honey bees, Cobey acknowledges. "The ultimate beekeeping experience is getting intimate with bees and literally looking a bee in the eye."

Cobey will be writing a "how to" piece on bee bearding in the near future.

Meanwhile, if a photo is worth a thousand words, what is a photo of thousands of bees on your head worth?

Priceless.

Jakub Gabka, a bee scientist from Poland, held this expression for a minute during the bee beard event at UC Davis. This photo appears on the cover of the current American Bee Journal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jakub Gabka, a bee scientist from Poland, held this expression for a minute during the bee beard event at UC Davis. This photo appears on the cover of the current American Bee Journal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Jakub Gabka, a bee scientist from Poland, held this expression for a minute during the bee beard event at UC Davis. This photo appears on the cover of the current American Bee Journal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 5:52 PM

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