The inaugural California Honey Festival, to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 6 on a four-block stretch in historic downtown Woodland, will draw folks from all over state and beyond. And it's free and open to the public.
Coordinated by Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, the festival will offer honey sampling, mead, live bands, talks on beekeeping and bee friendly plants, and vendors offering bee-related wares. And that's just the "bee-ginning."
At the Honey Lab, located in the UC Davis booth, members of the UC Davis Master Beekeeper Program and knowlegeable volunteers will teach festival-goers about "all things honey."
Some of the activities at the Honey Lab booth:
- Taste honey from around the world and check out the giant honey flavor and aroma wheel
- Learn about UC Davis beekeeping and the California Master Beekeeper Program
- Follow how honey is made from flower to bottle
- Marvel at the life cycle of a honey bee, starting with an egg and resulting in a bee just a couple weeks later
- Learn what is harming our bees
- Peruse the different kinds of bee hives and how they work
- Purchase books and UC Davis honey from the UC Davis bookstore
"The California Honey Festival's mission is to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping through this unique educational platform, to the broader public," said Harris. "Through lectures and demonstrations, the festival will help develop an interest in beekeeping by the younger generation. Attendees will learn about the myriad of issues that confront honey bees including pesticide use, diseases and even the weather! In addition, attendees can learn how to creatively plant their gardens to help feed all of our pollinators. It is important for the community to appreciate and understand the importance of bees as the lead pollinator of many of our crops adding to the food diversity we have come to enjoy."
Brandi, who spoke at a 2015 symposium at UC Davis, said that the major issues that negatively impact colonies include pesticides, varroa mites, nutritional issues and diseases. "It's much more difficult to keep bees alive and healthy today than it was in the 1970s," he told his audience. "I had a 5 percent winter loss in the 1970s, and a 13 to 45 percent winter loss in his operation during the past 10 years."
Among the many other speakers: Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, booked from 11 to 11:45 a.m. and from 2 to 2:45 p.m., and Billy Synk, director of pollination programs for Project Apis m., and former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Honey Bee Facility at UC Davis. Sync speaks from 12 to 12:45.
The California Honey Festival website includes a program schedule.
Expect lots of honey--which has been described as "the soul of a field of flowers."
How about "getting the red in?"
Have you ever seen a honey bee packing white, pink, blue, lavender, yellow, orange or red pollen? Have you ever seen the colorful diversity of pollen grains gracing their hives? Stunning.
Take red. It's a warning color in nature--think lady beetles, aka ladybugs. Predators know they don't taste good so they learn to leave them alone.
A chunk of red pollen on a honey bee, however, looks like a sun-ripened strawberry.
Lately we've been seeing honey bees with red pollen foraging on our Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas. Problem is, lavender yields a pale whitish pollen, not red. Last summer, the red came from the adjacent rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). It's not blooming now, however, so, they're drawing that brilliant red pollen elsewhere. And stopping by the Spanish lavender for nectar, their flight fuel.
Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says "I have not observed honey bees collecting pollen from lavender, but have seen them with pollen loads from other flowers stopping for a sip of nectar...especially honey bees that have been foraging on plants that do not produce nectar like California poppies, and lupines."
"English lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and most other members of the mint family have pale pollen rarely collected by honey bees, but these garden herbs are all great nectar resources," he says. "It is common to see honey bees on these plants with the wrong color pollen as they forage the herbs for nectar."
We're waiting for the cilantro to bloom. Then the bees will "be in the pink," so to speak. Pink pollen.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about honey bees, three UC Davis-affiliated events await you.
Saturday, May 6: The inaugural California Honey Festival, an event coordinated by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, will be held within a four-block area in downtown Woodland. Free and open to the public, it will include presentations, music, mead speakeasies, honey-tasting, vendors, bee friendly gardening, and a kids' zone.
Sunday, May 7: The third annual UC Davis Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will take place in the UC Davis Conference Center. Keynote speaker is Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash. Registration is underway.
Tuesday through Friday, Sept. 5-8: The Western Apicultural Society, founded at UC Davis, will return to UC Davis for its 40th annual meeting. It was co-founded by Norm Gary (it was his brainchild), Eric Mussen and Becky Westerdahl at what is now the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. Mussen, now Extension apiculturist emeritus, is serving his sixth term as president since 1984. WAS serves the educational needs of beekeepers from 13 states, plus parts of Canada.
If you like writing with light (photography), then you'll probably love capturing images of honey bees spinning like helicopters.
In the late afternoon, when the light softens, head over to your favorite Spanish lavender patch. Pull up a chair, listen to the buzz of the bees, and watch them spin their wings somewhat like helicopters do their blades.
Such was the case yesterday. The bees were buzzing so loud in the patch of lavender, Lavandula stoechas, that they sounded like spring unleashed. That buzz you hear is their wings; they've been recorded at 200 beats per second. Honey bees can be long-distance travelers; they can forage up to five or six miles, and can move about 15 miles per hour.
Those streaming purple petals topping the bloom are actually sterile bracts--Wikipedia defines a bract as "a modified or specialized leaf, especially one associated with a reproductive structure such as a flower, inflorescence axis, or cone scale." The bracts resemble rabbit ears, but ironically, Spanish lavender is rabbit-resistant and deer resistant (which is probably why there are no deer or rabbits in our urban yard!)
Meanwhile, if you've been wanting to learn more about honey bees, mark your calendar for these events in Davis and Woodland, Yolo County.
California Honey Festival: The inaugural California Honey Festival will take place Saturday, May 6 in downtown Woodland. Associated with the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, it will be held outdoors (Main Street), encompassing four blocks. It's free and open to the public. Expect beekeeper talks, booths, vendors, music, mead, honey tasting and lots of fun, says Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollinator Center See http://californiahoneyfestival.com.
UC Davis Bee Symposium: The Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology are sponsoring their third annual Bee Symposium, "Keeping Bees Healthy," on Sunday, May 7 in the UC Davis Conference Center. Keynote speaker is noted apiculturist Steve Sheppard of Thurber Professor of Apiculture and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash. Sheppard specializes in population genetics and evolution of honey bees, insect introductions and mechanisms of genetic differentiation. He also heads the Apis Molecular Systematics Laboratory. Registration is underway at http://honey.ucdavis.edu/events/2017-bee-symposium.
Western Apicultural Society (WAS): Founded 40 year ago at UC Davis, WAS will return to its roots for its next conference, set from Sept. 5-8 in Davis. Its president is Eric Mussen, UC Extension apiculturist emeritus, who is based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's a familiar face; he's one of the three WAS co-founders and he's serving his sixth term as president. The conference open to the public. Registration is underway on the WAS website, http://www.westernapiculturalsociety.org.
And Amina Harris would love it if you're interested in participating in this event or volunteering.
Harris directs the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, which is sponsoring the inaugural California Honey Festival on Saturday, May 6 in downtown Woodland. It's free and open to the public.
The event, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. , will stretch four blocks on Main Street and side streets. It promises to be both educational and entertaining. Think honey. Think mead. Think bees. Think beekeeping. Think live music (along with the live bees.) Think fun.
The many booths will include six from UC Davis: Department of Entomology and Nematology; Bohart Museum of Entomology; the department's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven; Art-Science Fusion Program; graduate students (research posters); and the California Master Beekeeper Program, managed by the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
“The California Honey Festival's mission is to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping through this unique educational platform, to the broader public,” said Harris. “The scope of the event includes a culinary stage, a garden stage, a speakers' forum in the Woodland Opera House, kids' zone, live entertainment and loads of vendors and food. In addition, restaurants in Woodland will have honey centric menus and drinks enhanced with honey. Mead anyone? We have a Mead Speakeasy with five meaderies already signed up.”
National sponsors include the National Honey Board, the American Beekeeping Federation.
Margaret Lombard, chief executive officer of the National Honey Board, based in Firestone, Colo., will be among those speaking on the Beekeeper Stage, one of five stages at the festival.
Among the other speakers:
- Billy Synk, director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m., Paso Robles, and former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility;
- Elina Niño, Extension apiculturist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
- Vicki Wojcik, research director of Pollinator Partnership, San Francisco
- Gene Brandi of Gene Brandi Apiaries, Los Banos (he is active in the California State Beekeepers' Association, the American Beekeeping Federation and the National Honey Board)
On the culinary stage will be Marie Simmons of Eugene, Ore., an award-winning cookbook author, food writer and story teller; Frank Golbeck, CEO of Golden Coast Mead, San Diego; Toby Barajas, executive chef at Savory Café on Main Street, Woodland; and Casey Willard, executive chef for the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Capay Valley.
Sharing the Gardening Stage will be Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture; UC Davis Arboretum; and Chris Casey, program representative for the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located on Bee Biology Road.
Among the entertainers, as of Feb. 24: Mike Blanchard and the Californios, City of Trees Brass Band, Boca do Rio, Joe Craven and the Sometimers, Jared Johnson, Hannah Mayree, and the Gold Souls.
Education platforms will feature the Honey Flavor and Aroma Wheel, a project of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center; a bee demonstration hive; and posters on pollinators (do you know who your pollinators are and where they are?), the life cycle of bees, and bee threats, including pesticides, pests and pathogens.
Vendors will include beekeepers, bee clubs, honey packers, beekeeping supplies, crafts people, food vendors, Harris said. She is seeking volunteers to help with the festival; she may be reached at email@example.com or (530) 754-9301. In addition, there's still time to fill out a vendor application form; sign up for educational and entertainment activities, and become a (much-loved) sponsor.
Already the festival is shaping up to be "the place to bee" on Saturday, May 6. And the next day--Sunday, May 7--is the third annual UC Davis Bee Symposium at the UC Davis Conference Center. It's about "Keeping Bees Healthy." (See website.)
The joy of the season strikes a chord.
When bees slip out of their California hives during winter sun breaks, they often head over to mallow blossoms to grab some nectar and pollen. A favorite is the tree mallow, Lavatera maritima “bicolor," native to Mediterranean regions of the world and California. The genus derives its name from Swiss botanist J.R. Lavater, who first discovered the species in Spain. The drought-tolerant plants, which can reach 12 feet in height, are perfect for gardeners challenging the California drought!
It doesn't take long for honey bees to discover the towering blossoms. The bees buzz in and out, battling for position, jockeying for the precious pollen. Then, laden with "gold dust," they linger in flight to clean their tongues for another go-around.
Bees, we can't get enough of them! Is it spring yet?
Meanwhile, let's fast-forward to May 2017. Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7. On May 6 is the inaugural California Honey Festival in Woodland, and on May 7, the fourth annual UC Davis Bee Symposium.
The California Honey Festival, co-sponsored by the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, UC Davis, and the Woodland Hoteliers, is an all-day family festival that will take place on Main Street, Woodland.
“The California Honey Festival will be a great opportunity for guests to experience the full spectrum of honey flavor,” said Honey and Pollination Center director Harris, who is coordinating the festival's educational content. “Not all honey tastes the same! Like wine, varietals of honey flavors and aromas can be very distinct. We developed our Honey Flavor Wheel in 2015 to help teach people about the nuances of honey flavor.”
In addition to tasting honey, festival goers can learn about honey bees, their pollination services, and the health benefits of honey. They can sample specialty meads or “honey wine”; taste honey-inspired food and beverages, and purchase honey and bee-themed gifts. Other family friendly activities will include a bee-themed play structure for kids, cooking demonstrations featuring honey, and informational sessions on beekeeping basics and bee-friendly gardening. More information on the California Honey Festival, including sponsorships and vendor details, is available on the festival website, www.CaliforniaHoneyFestival.com
And the next day, Sunday, May 7, is the fourth annual Bee Symposium, co-sponsored by the Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The day-long event will focus on bee health and best management practices. It will feature keynote speakers, panel discussions, a luncheon, and a graduate student poster contest, among other activities. It's a mingling of bee scientists and researchers, beekeepers and others interested in bee health. Details are pending.