Posts Tagged: Susan Cobey
A tip of the bee veil to Susan Cobey.
Cobey, bee breeder-geneticist and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, has won the 2009 “Outstanding Service to Beekeeping” award from the Western Apicultural Society (WAS).
Cobey received a plaque at the organization’s 31st annual conference, held last week in Healdsburg.
Known world-wide for her expertise in instrumental insemination and stock improvement, she trained under Harry Laidlaw (1907-2003) of UC Davis, considered “the father of honey bee genetics.”
WAS president and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, presented her the award, praising her expertise, dedication and passion.
Cobey is well-known in the beekeeping industry. Her advanced beekeeping courses on queen bee rearing and queen bee insemination draw students from throughout the world.
“It’s a special honor to receive this award, especially since my return to California,” said Cobey, who participated in the first WAS conferences.
Cobey joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in May 2007, after a career spanning 17 years as staff apiarist at the Rothenbuhler Honey Bee Laboratory, Ohio State University.
Cobey developed the New World Carnolians stock, a dark race of honey bees, in the early 1980s by back-crossing stocks collected from throughout the United States and Canada to create a more pure strain. A current focus of her research includes selecting and enhancing this stock to show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases.
Of her research, she says: “Over time, it has proven very productive, winter hardy, well-tempered and more resistant to pests and disease. Genetic diversity, the raw tools for selection, is critical in maintaining colony fitness and resisting pests and diseases.”
She is enhancing the stock, now in its 27th generation, with importation of semen from the German Carnica Association.
Cobey is the 28th person to receive the WAS award, and the sixth from UC Davis. Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. received the award in 1980; Robert Page in 1989; Norman Gary in 1990; Eric Mussen in 1991; and Christine Peng in 2002. Page (now with Arizona State University), Gary and Peng are all emeriti professors.
Mussen and Gary co-founded WAS in 1978 as a non-profit, educational organization designed specifically to meet the educational needs of beekeepers from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon; and the states of northern Mexico.
Quick! How many legs does a honey bee have?
If you said "three pairs" or "six legs," you'd bee right.
But have you ever noticed the honey bee in flight?
The worker bee packs pollen in her pollen baskets or corbiculae, located on the midsegments of her outer hind legs.
The legs are fringed with long, curved hairs that hold the pollen in place. Once she's gathered pollen, she moves it to the pollen press located between the two largest segments of the hind leg.
The pollen press basically presses the pollen into pellets.
Sometimes the pollen load looks as big as a beach ball and you wonder how she can carry that load back to the hive.
But she does.
The bee with the huge pollen load below is one of Susan Cobey's bees. She's a UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr., Honey Bee Research Facility, is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back.
And that's exactly what she did when several visitors recently toured the Laidlaw facility.
Cobey let one visitor borrow her long-sleeved denim shirt. Then, bare-armed, Cobey opened a hive to display the colony. That says two things: her generosity and the temperament of her bees: gentle.
"Sue's bees are polite," observed beekeeper Steve Godlin of Visalia, vice chair of the California State Apiary board member, duirng an apiar board meeting Oct. 3, 2008 at the Laidlaw facility.
Indeed they are.
Apiary visitors are customarily issued a bee veil, and, depending on the activity taking place and the time of year, may also be provided a full protective suit.
Or a long-sleeved shirt from Cobey.
That's just one of the things that Cobey does behind the scenes.
Update: For her contributions to the Laidlaw facility, the university and the bee industry, she recently received a citation for excellence from the UC Davis Staff Assembly. She was one of 21 individuals, plus 13 teams, receiving the award at a ceremony in the courtyard of Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef's home.
Some 6000 staff employees were eligible for the award sform a total pool of 12,000 UC Davis staff, according to Staff Assembly coordinator Tiva Lasier.
Cobey was praised for raising awareness for the plight of honey bees at local, state, national and global levels. She maintains a close relationship with the beekeeping industry at all levels, especially the California Bee Breeders, who produce half the nation’s supply of mated queen honey bees. “If an individual beekeeper is having trouble, she takes a personal interest in solving the problem as if the bees were hers,” the nomination letter read.
Cobey maintains collaborative research projects with many honey bee researchers in the
Cobey, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology in May 2007 from
“Our nominee treats bees as she does people: both politely and respectively,” said UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty since 1976.
Indeed she does.
Faster than a speeding bullet...
As soon as UC Davis bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey opened a beehive and removed a chunk of honeycomb to show visitors, here came the speeding bullet. A fast camera shutter caught what the eye couldn't see.
It was a queen yellowjacket taking dead aim at the comb.
"The yellowjacket queen this time of year zeroes in on the honey as soon as you open a hive," said Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
"They build up their populations in the fall and eat the bees for protein to overwinter. They can actually kill bee colonies, especially weak ones. As meat-eating predators, these are common at picnic time, for which honey bees are often unfairly blamed."
Yes, honey bees are indeed unfairly blamed. Like human vegetarians, honey bees don't eat meat. They may land on your soda can for the sugar water, but meat doesn't interest them. They forage for nectar and pollen.
Now yellowjackets--they're predators. They love meats and sweets. You'll see these uninvited guests at your picnic or barbecue, boldly sampling your steak, hamburger or chicken; targeting your can of soda; or scavenging in and around your garbage can.
They also vigorously defend their nests, which look like paper combs. Do not go near their nests.
Their sting is painful. A yellowjacket recently nailed UC Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen beneath the collar as he was checking the honey bees at the Laidlaw facility.
Mussen noted that beekeepers inadvertently kill a few bees each time they open a hive and pry open the "stuck-together" frames with their hive tool. The dead bees fall to the ground--to the waiting yellowjackets. The yellowjackets then carry the bees off to their nest, chew them into pulp, and feed the "protein" to their brood.
More yellowjackets on the way.
And soon, more speeding bullets.
Sheridan Miller's gift to UC Davis for honey bee research was both generous and thoughtful.
The 11-year-old Bay Area resident raised $733 for the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility through the sale of jars of honey, candles, baked goods and a self-penned booklet on the plight of honey bees.
The fifth grader and her family (father Craig, mother Annika and sister Annelie, 8) traveled from their home in Marin County to present the check to Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey guided the group on a tour of the Laidlaw facility and apiary.
“It’s very thoughtful and generous of a little girl to think of the plight of the honey bees and to raise funds for research,” Kimsey said. "We are overwhelmed.”
Said Cooperative Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology since 1976: “I really appreciate the fact that so many members of the general public have become concerned about the plight of honey bees. I am particularly impressed by individuals such as Sheridan who have devoted so much time and effort in really trying to improve the health and longevity of the honey bees.”
"Honey bees pollinate delicious fruits, vegetables and even nuts," Sheridan wrote. "If they were to disappear, our food source would consist of wheat, rice and corn."
Sheridan's dedication deeply illustrates what one person can do to help save the bees.
Sheridan cannot imagine a world without bees. Neither can we.