Honey Bee Geneticist Rob Page Launches YouTube Channel: Fascinating World of Bees

Honey Bee Geneticist Rob Page Launches YouTube Channel: Fascinating World of Bees

If you're interested in bees--as a scientist, beekeeper or just as an enthusiast--you'll want to access the newly launched YouTube Channel of internationally acclaimed honey bee geneticist Robert E. Page Jr., a UC Davis alumnus and an emeritus administrator at UC Davis and Arizona State University.

The link: https://youtube.com/@artofthebee

Just call it "the fascinating world of bees!"

The content is from his book, The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies, (Oxford University Press, 2020). 

"The impact of bees on our planet is immeasurable," he says. "Bees are responsible for the evolution of the vast array of brightly-coloured flowers and for engineering the niches of multitudes of plants, animals, and microbes.  They've painted our landscapes with flowers through their pollination activities and have evolved the most complex societies to build and exploit the environment.  The biology of the honey bee is one that reflects their role in transforming environments with their anatomical adaptations and a complex language that together function to harvest floral resources.  A social system that includes a division of labor builds, defends, and provisions nests containing tens of thousands of individuals, only one of whom reproduces."

"This YouTube channel series presents fundamental biology, not in organizational layers, but wrapped around interesting themes and concepts, and in ways designed to explore and understand each concept," explained Page, who retired in 2019. "It examines the co-evolution of bees and flowering plants, bees as engineers of the environment, the evolution of sociality, the honey bee as a superorganism and how it evolves, and the mating behavior of the queen." 

The content is divided into six segments:

Landscape Artists:
Episode 1: “Darwin's Abominable Mystery” 
Episode 2: “Floral Adaptations”
Episode 3: “Adaptations of Bees” 
Episode 4: “Dance Language”
Episode 5: “Navigation”
Episode 6: “Time Scales of Change” 

Environmental Engineers:
Episode 1: “Environmental Engineering”
Episode 2: “Niche Construction”
Episode 3: “Nest Defense in Niche Construction” 

The Social Contract:
Episode 1: “Political Philosophy of Bees Social Contract”
Episode 2: “Complex Social Structures”
Episode 3: “Power and Will of Social Insects”
Episode 4: “Evolution of Altruism in Bees”
Episode 5: “Public Health and Bees”
Episode 6: “Honey Bee Public Works, Welfare Immigration” 

Episode 1: “What Is a Superorganism?”
Episode 2: “Reproduction, Protection and Nutrition”
Episode 3: “Biogenic Law and Baers Law”
Episode 4: “Germ Plasm Theory”
Episode 5: “A Metaphor or an Entity” 

How to Make a Superorganism:
Episode 1: “The Spirit of the Hive”
Episode 2: “Division of Labor”
Episode 3: “Colony Level Selection”
Episode 4: “Phenotypic Architecture”
Episode 5: “Phenotypic and Genetic Architectures”
Episode 6: “Bee Development” 

Song of the Queen:
Episode 1: “Natural History and Castes”
Episode 2: “The Song Begins: Making a New Queen”
Episode 3: “Conditions that Stimulate Queen Rearing”
Episode 4: “Where Do Queens Mate?”
Episode 5: “How Do Queens Mate? How Many Times?”
Episode 6: “Polyandry and Sperm Use”

A native of Bakersfield, Rob holds a bachelor's degree in entomology (1976), with a minor in chemistry, from San Jose State University. He obtained his doctorate in entomology (1980) from UC Davis; joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989; and chaired the Department of Entomology from 1999 to 2004.  

Page joined Arizona State University in 2004, after retiring as Professor Emeritus and Chair Emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology, to be founding director of the School of Life Sciences. He served as provost of Arizona State University (2013- 2015) and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (2011-2013). His research on honey bee behavior and genetics appears in his publications Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding (1997, with Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. , his major professor at UC Davis and "the father of honey bee genetics"); The Spirit of the Hive, Harvard University Press (2013); and The Art of the Bee, Oxford University Press (2020). His 230-plus research papers have been cited more than 20,000 times.

Much of his research occurred at UC Davis. For 24 years, from 1989 to 2015, Page maintained a honey bee-breeding program, managed by bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk. Their contributions include discovering a link between social behavior and maternal traits in bees. Their work was featured in a cover story in the journal Nature. In all, Nature featured his work on four covers from work mostly done at UC Davis.

Highly honored by his peers, the honey bee geneticist is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Science, Leopoldina--the German National Academy of Science, and the California Academy of Sciences. His many awards include the Humboldt Research Prize, Fellow (elected) of the Entomological Society of America (ESA), and recipient of the both the Eastern and Western Apicultural Society Research Awards.

Page's UC Davis honors include:

  • Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Award (2018) from UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
  • UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Professor (2019), one awarded annually, UC Davis Emeriti Association
  • Exceptional Emeriti Faculty Award (2022), UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

He most recently won the 2023 C. W. Woodworth Award, the highest honor that the Pacific Branch of ESA offers. “Dr. Page is a pioneering researcher in the field of evolutionary genetics and social behavior of honey bees, and a highly respected and quoted author, teacher and former administrator,” wrote nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Page is the 12th UC Davis recipient of the award, first presented in 1969. Laidlaw won the award in 1981. (See news story)