Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, has received the 2009 California State Beekeepers’ Association’s Distinguished Service Award for service to the honey bee industry.

Cobey accepted the award at the group’s conference in San Diego, Calif. She drew praise for improving stock; teaching advanced beekeeping courses on queen bee rearing and instrument insemination; and pushing to develop import protocol to diversify the U.S. honey bee populations.

Cobey has traveled the world to find promising bee characteristics and improve stock. She has taught many classes on queen rearing and artificial insemination with the emphasis on closed populations to enhance the particular line of queens.

“In order to continue to improve honey bee stock for resistance to pests and diseases, bees and reproductive material must be imported from other countries, as well as domestically,” said Bob Miller of Miller’s Honeybees, Watsonville, who announced the award recipient.

“In an effort to maintain safe international movement of honey bee germplasm, she (Cobey) has helped to develop the protocol necessary to protect U.S. beekeeping from unwanted and uncontrolled importation,” Miller said.

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 Carniolans stock, a dark race of honey bees, in the early 1980s by back-crossing stocks collected from throughout the U.S. and Canada to create a more pure strain. A current focus of Cobey’s research includes selecting and enhancing this stock to show increasing levels of resistance to pests and diseases.