Allen-Diaz promises to Wear Bees
To Raise Scholarship Dollars for UC Students
Barbara Allen-Diaz, a top administrator in the University of California,
has vowed to create a big buzz — a big buzz with bees — if she can raise
$2500 by Oct. 31 for UC's "Promise for Education" campaign, aimed at
providing scholarships for UC students in need of financial help.
Allen-Diaz, vice president for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC
ANR), has agreed to participate in a stunt with thousands of buzzing honey bees
clustered on either a UC ANR T-shirt or on a UC ANR banner in a project
coordinated by the world-renowned bee wrangler Norm Gary, UC Davis emeritus
professor of entomology.
Allen-Diaz holds several other titles: director of the Agricultural
Experiment Station, director of Cooperative Extension, and professor and
Russell Rustici Chair in Rangeland Management at UC Berkeley. But next spring,
she will become "The Bee Lady" or "The Bee-liever,"
surrounded by thousands of buzzing honey bees.
Allen-Diaz has never intentionally been near a cluster of bees. "I
have to say that most of the bee interactions that I've had in the past have
been stepping on them barefoot on the lawn as a child in Edmonds, Wash.;
jumping off a rock wall into a bee hive as a child – 11 stings on my neck and
face; and trying to control meat-eating wasps (protecting her families' hands,
faces and legs) at our Oregon home," she said.
"That said, I am a true believer in the importance of honey bees and
the importance of bees as pollinators in our agricultural and wild
ecosystems," Allen-Diaz said. "The health of agriculture and the
health of the planet depend on the health and survival of our honey bees. I am
very much looking forward to meeting Norm Gary and will participate with
fascination as he 'wrangles' these bees. I hope they like me as much as Norm!
And I hope that I am able to raise some dollars to support undergraduate
education at UC.
Norm Gary said he will set up the project sometime in the spring, when the
weather warms and the bees begin their annual population build-up.
Gary, who turns 80 in November, retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a
32-year academic career. He also retired this year as a bee wrangler and as a
66-year beekeeper, but "I'm coming out of retirement to help with this
cause," he said.
"Bees are not inclined to sting if they are well-fed, happy and
content and are 'under the influence' of powerful synthetic queen bee odors —
pheromones — which tend to pacify them," Gary said.
While at UC Davis, he formulated a pheromone solution that is very
effective in controlling bee behavior. Bees, attracted to pheromones, cluster
on the drops of pheromones, whether it be a sign, a t-shirt or a plastic
"Bees wrangled by this procedure have no inclination to sting,"
he said. "Stinging behavior occurs naturally near the hive in defense of
the entire colony not for the defense of the individual bee, because bees that
sting die within hours. Using this approach I have had as many as a
million bees clustered on six people simultaneously."
"Most people fear bees," Gary acknowledged. "They think bees
'want' to sting them. Wrong! They sting only when the nest or colony is
attacked or disturbed or when they are trapped in a physical situation where
they are crushed."
Over the last four decades, Gary has trained bees to perform action scenes
in movies, television shows and commercials. Among his credits are 18 films,
including "Fried Green Tomatoes." "My Girl," "The X
Files," "Terror Out of the Sky," "Invasion of the Bee
Girls" and "Candyman" and the sequels. He appeared on more than
70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno late night shows.
He starred as the first guest on the TV show "That's Incredible" and
returned for four additional shows.
Gary holds a Guinness Book of World Records for most bees (109) in his
mouth; he trained the bees to fly into his mouth to collect food from a small
sponge saturated with his patented artificial nectar. He kept the bees inside
his closed mouth for 10 seconds.
The retired bee scientist is the author of the popular book, "Honey
Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees," now in its second printing.
During his academic career, he published more 100 peer-reviewed scientific
papers and four book chapters.
Gary, who received his doctorate in apiculture from Cornell University in
1959, is known internationally for his bee research. He was the first to
document reproductive behavior of honey bees on film and the first to discover
queen bee sex attractant pheromones. He invented a magnetic retrieval
capture/recapture system for studying the foraging activities of bees,
documenting the distribution and flight range in the field. His other studies
revolved around honey bee pollination of agricultural crops, stinging and
defensive behavior, and the effects of pesticides on foraging activities, among
dozens of others.
A professional jazz and Dixieland musician, Gary is also known for
playing the "B-flat clarinet" while covered from head to toe with
bees. He continues to play professionally in the Sacramento area—minus the
"I'm looking forward to the big buzz next spring," he said.
"I promise it will be un-bee-lievable."
Labels: Barbara Allen-Diaz to Be Bee Lady