When the 141st annual Dixon May Fair opens May 5-8, 2016 at 655 S 1st St.,Dixon, the grounds will be buzzing, in keeping with the theme, "Buzzing with Excitement."
The fair is putting the "buzz" in bees and the bees in "buzz."
“As an agricultural-based fair in Solano County, we can never underestimate the role of bees, not only for necessary pollination of our crops, but also with honey as a food source, and beeswax as a byproduct," said chief administrative officer Patricia Conklin. At the same time, the theme incorporates fun.
Bee scientists at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, will provide expertise and displays, including a bee observation hive and educational information.
Talented graphic artist Steve Dana of Dixon drew the bee-themed fair logo. The colorful logo make you think of animal identity theft. It features horses, cows, pigs, chicken, rabbits, and dogs in the familiar bee attire.
"Creating art for the Dixon May Fair is one of his favorite projects," said Dana, a graphic designer and illustrator at UC Davis for more than 25 years and the owner of a freelance graphic design and illustration business that he launched in 1990. He specializes in publication and logo design as well as cartoon and medical illustrations. Dana has illustrated three children's books with author and fellow Dixon High School graduate, Karen Emigh.
This is the seventh year Dana has created the Dixon May Fair logo. "I've loved the themes each year, " he said, "but this is my favorite so far."
Dana, a lifelong resident of Dixon, where he lives with his wife, Jodi and son and daughter, Eric and Keley, received his bachelor's degree from California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo in 1987. Growing up on a farm just east of Dixon, Dana said he "rode motorcycles and sketched cartoons whenever possible, always wishing that I could be as good as my older brother, Jim."
Art runs in the family. Their parents both "enjoyed various forms of art from acrylic painting to metal sculpture," Dana said. A nephew, Sutton Betti, is a professional sculptor in Colorado.
Meanwhile, it's all about the bees in this Dixon community where agriculture reigns supreme. If agriculture is "king," then "queen" refers to the honey bees.
Will all the pollinators please stand up!
Or do a fly-by like the Blue Angels or a crawl-by like babies competing in a diaper derby.
Bees--there are more than 4000 of them in North America--are the main pollinators, but don't overlook butterflies, beetles, birds, bats and moths.
Here's proof positive that flies can pollinate. If you look closely at this little bee fly on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), you'll see that it has just grabbed some pollen. It's a member of the genus, Villa, and family, Bombyliidae, according to fly expert Martin Hauser of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Many folks mistake flies for bees. Look through any stock photo catalog or macro insect images on Flickr or a Facebook page and you'll often see hover flies, bee flies and other flies identified as bees.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
Welcome to the Pollination Nation!
For more information on bee flies, see BugGuide.net. For syrphids, aka flower flies or hover flies, read the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management's information on managing pests or read entomologist Robert Bugg's free downloadable PDF on the UC ANR website, Flower Flies (Syrphidae) and Other Biological Control Agents for Aphids (Publication No. 8285).
We first met Sheridan Miller, 11, of Mill Valley when she visited the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, to give $733 to bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now of Washington State University.
Young Sheridan, concerned about the plight of the bees, began raising money for bee research at age 10. This included selling jars of honey, baked goods featuring honey, beeswax candles, olive oil, soap and a self-penned booklet about the plight of honey bees.
At the time, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology, was the interim chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (later to become the Department of Entomology and Nematology).
“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 and now retired: “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.”
Then in October 2009 at the opening of the department's Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that supports the Laidlaw bees and serves as an educational resource, the officials honored Sheridan and her family. Sheridan's name is engraved on donor plaque in the garden.
Fast forward to today. Sheridan is now a high school senior and yes, she's still raising funds for Cobey's bee research. She has raised more than $5000. See WSU article.
In the WSU article, Sheridan's father, Craig, a Bay Area lawyer, is quoted as saying: “Sue has been generous with her time and her gratitude toward Sheridan, She has instilled confidence in Sheridan and an incredible sense of pride. I guess an organization could simply send a thank-you note for a donation. Sue, on the other hand, sent friendship, knowledge, encouragement–and even bees!”
Sheridan Miller's enthusiasm for bees now extends to her becoming a beekeeper. Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, a former volunteer at the Laidlaw facility and a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers' Association, has worked with Sheridan for the past four years. He set up her hives and is teaching her how to care for and manage bees.
And, Cobey and Fishback continue to answer Sheridan's questions. Meanwhile, Fishback also shares his bee expertise with students in area classrooms.
Cobey and her fellow WSU researchers are working to build a better bee. Their research includes importing germplasm (honey bee semen) from Europe and crossing it with domestic breeding stocks to create healthier stock.
Sheridan hasn't decided on what college to attend or her major, but Cobey and Fishback hope that maybe it has something to do with bees.
"Sheridan is amazing," said Cobey, who traveled to Mill Valley a couple of years ago to participate in one of Sheridan's bee research fundraisers and "to talk bees."
If you're interested in helping Sherican help the bees, access the Go Fund Me account.
Sheridan is the human equivalent of a worker bee.
Monarch butterflies aren't the only insects that like milkweed.
Honey bees, lady beetles and aphids, do, too.
We found all three insects, plus a monarch butterfly, on our scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) today (Labor Day). Most of the insects were oleander aphids, which attract lady beetles. aka ladybugs.
Asclepias curassavica, also known as tropical milkweed, and Mexican butterfly weed, is native to South America but is frequently planted throughout the United States to attract monarchs. In the United States, you'll find it not only in California and Florida, but in Hawaii, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas, among others states. The colorful plant is known by some as "redhead," due to its brilliant red (and yellow) flowers.
Unfortunately, some of the "yellow" is a pest that needs to be eradicated. See the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) guideline on aphids.
Whether you call them "praying" mantis or "preying" mantis, one thing is for sure: they are difficult to find.
Tucked away in vegetation and as quiet as "the proverbial mouse" (except praying mantids are more quiet than the "proverbial" mice), they are an eye exercise in "Find me!"
As autumn approaches, our little bee garden is nearing the end of its life. The Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) and lavender are fading rapidly. However, honey bees and other pollinators continue to forage, and the mantids are still hungry. The female mantids, mothers to be, need more high-quality food. Ootheca!
We're all accustomed to seeing praying mantids grab their struggling prey with their spiked forelegs and munch away. Usually that movement alerts us to their whereabouts.
But have you ever just searched for mantids in their habitat? See if you can find them in these photos.
Find the praying mantis!