- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Beekeeping comes naturally for Brian Fishback of Wilton, a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association and a volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.
“From the first moment I opened a hive and held a full frame of brood covered with bees, I was in utopia,” he said. “Everything came together. In my hand, I held the essence of core family values.”
That was in 2008.
Now he shares his knowledge with beekeepers-to-be, beginning beekeepers and veteran beekeepers, and gives presentations at schools and public events.
One of his next projects is teaching a class on “Introduction to Beekeeping” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 14 at the Soil Born Farms’ American River at 2140 Chase Drive, Rancho Cordova. Pre-registration is under way at (916) 868-6399 ($35 for Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op owners and $45 for others).
Fishback will introduce the class to the basics of beekeeping, life in the honey bee colony, equipment and tools, swarming, pests and diseases “and what it takes to get started.” He will offer both classroom and field instruction and provide an “Introduction to Beekeeping booklet.”
Back in 2008, he and his wife Darla purchased a ranch in Wilton, renamed the BD Ranch and Apiary (www.beesarelife.com), to pursue a self-sustaining life. “I catapulted into this way of life, knowing that honey bees would provide us with pollination as well as a natural sweetener,” Fishback recalled.
Like a nurse bee tending brood, he dived into the project head first—joining the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association, reading books, and talking to beekeepers.
He acknowledges that his first year of keeping bees was a rough one. “I had 40 percent losses due to colony collapse disorder (CCD),” Fishback said. “I was determined to research more into the contributing factors of CCD and how I could raise bees successfully without having to use harsh chemicals to treat them.
“My quest as well as my passion with honey bees led me to become the president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association and become a member of the California State Beekeepers’ Association. This allowed me to delve deeper into working with others at all levels of beekeeping and research.”
Fishback has helped out at events such as the California Agriculture Day at the state capitol and at state and county fairs. His interest in research led him to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty and other UC Davis bee specialists.
In the fall of 2010, his began volunteering at the Laidlaw facility, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
“It’s a privilege,” he said, to work with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and beekeeper/research associate Elizabeth Frost at the Laidlaw facility “and still have time to share my knowledge in community outreach efforts.” This year he assisted Cobey with her queen rearing classes and instrumental insemination classes, and also with her field trips to commercial queen-bee breeders.
Fishback continues his outreach programs “to encourage interest in honey bees and to share the importance of the honey bee to our environment and our food supply.” When he gives his presentations in schools, he brings along a bee observation hive, where the youths can single out the queen bee, workers and drones.
“I allow anyone or any group with an interest agriculture, small-scale farming and of course, beekeeping, to take a day tour of my ranch, get in a bee suit and feel joy that life has to offer,” Fishback said.