Visitors at the annual California Agriculture Day, held Wednesday, March 18 on the west lawn of the State Capitol, made a beeline to the California State Beekeepers' Asssociation (CSBA) booth to see the bees, pocket some honey sticks and talk bees.
Staffing the booth were five beekeepers and Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired last June after 38 years of service, fielded lots of questions.
Bill Cervenka of Bill Cervenka Apariies, Half Moon Bay, provided a bee observation hive. Carlin Jupe of Sacramento, secretary-treasurer of the CSBA, brought along 2000 Honey Stix containing wildflower honey, ordered from Nature's Kick, Salem, Ore.
Each honey stick contained a CSBA message:
- Honey bees are the backbone of agriculture
- They pollinate 1/3 of the human diet
- They pollinate 50 varied U.S. crops worth more than $20 billion
- They pollinate California's $2.5 billion almond production
- They produce $150 million in U.S. honey and beeswax
"I spent quite a bit of time on 'How do I keep bees in a thirty-third floor apartment with no balcony?'" Mussen related. "I sent a number of people to the Sacramento Beekeeping Supply store to find an opening in beginning beekeeping courses. I spent time explaining the bee space and how to keep purchasing wooden ware from the same supplier, so the space would not be violated."
Folks also wanted to know how the drought is impacting the bees. State Senator Jim Nielsen "wanted to know that he kicked up enough of a fuss to get agriculture a place at the water conference table. Up until then, no ag reps were desired."
Eight-year-old Sam Blincoe of Sacramento took a special interest in the bee observation hive, as Mather explained what the bee colony is all about. "He's going to become a beekeeper," she predicted.
The theme, she added, "also reflects the United Nations' declaration of 2015 as the International Year of Soils to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions."
Meanwhile, California Farm Bureau Foundation president Paul Wenger issued this statement today, the first day of spring: "On this first day of spring, we celebrate the agricultural bounty of our nation and especially of California, where a unique combination of climate, soils, water and know-how allows farmers and ranchers to harvest food and farm products every day of the year. While parts of our nation continue to shiver in cold and snow, California provides, thanks to one of only five Mediterranean climates in the world. As we celebrate this bounty, we must also resolve to assure we can sustain it. As California suffers through another year of drought, we must pay particular attention to our state's ability to manage the rain and snow that does fall each winter, to sustain us through dry times. Farm Bureau will continue to press our leaders, at the local, state and national levels, to assure sustainable food production by building new water storage and better managing the entire water system, to ensure California remains the No. 1 agricultural state in the nation."
You can tell it's almost spring when you hear bees buzzing on the flowering crab apples.
Spring officially starts Friday, March 20, but don't tell that to the bees.
They're in the midst of their spring build-up.
Meanwhile, California Agriculture Day beckons.
The California State Beekeepers' Association and other ag-affiiiated organzations are gearing up for the annual California Ag Day, part of National Agriculture Week.
California Ag Day, free and open to the public, takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 18 on the west steps of the state capitol.
There you'll see a John Deere tractor parked on the steps, 4-H'ers and FFA'ers showing their animals, and ag industries displaying educational material and offering samples. Generally, it's a day to celebrate agriculture and thank the farmers and growers for the bounty that we tend to take for granted. This year's theme is “California Agriculture: Breaking new Ground." The focus: the importance of soil health to our food supply and all of agriculture.
Said Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross: "National Agriculture Week gives us the opportunity to celebrate agriculture, an industry that provides a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply, a strong economy, and a world of job opportunities.”
If you stop by the California State Beekeepers' Association booth on California Ag Day, you can learn first-hand about bees from the beekeepers and "honey bee guru" Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired last June after 38 years of service.
Generally, they're asked:
- How are the bees doing?"
- "What can we do to help?"
- "How difficult is it to keep bees?"
- "How can I learn beekeeping?"
- "What's wrong with my bees?"
There's a reward, too, for visiting the booth. You'll receive a sweet treat: a honey stick.
Did you know that it takes honey bees 10 million floral visits to make a pound of honey? (Source: Bees of the World by Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw). "The members of a single hive may make four and a half million visits to flowers in the course of one day's work and more than one thousand workers will die every day in the summer," they write. "Cause of death? Sheer exhaustion. Life expectancy? Af the height of the nectar-gathering season, a mere six weeks."
That's something to think about the next time you see the foragers going about their bees-ness.
The first booth, operated by the Dairy Council of California, handed out milk. The second booth, operated by the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA), shared honey.
"They go together," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, who helped staff the beekeepers' booth with CSBA president Bryan Ashurst and cousin Brock Ashurst of the Westmorland area (Imperial County) and their families; secretary-treasurer Carlen Jupe of Salida; and CSBA members Bill Cervenka of Half Moon Bay and Kathy Kellison of Santa Rosa. Kellison serves as the executive director of Partners for Sustainable Pollination.
The beekeepers know royalty when they see one (queen bee) and the Dairy Council knows a princess when it sees one. Dairy Princess Kayla Withrow of Wilton helped hand out milk and chocolate-flavored milk, while the beekeepers handed out blackberry, blueberry, citrus, clover and yellow starthistle Honeystix (honey-filled straws). A special treat at the beekeepers' booth was Häagen-Dazs ice cream, compliments of the premier ice cream brand which supports bee research at UC Davis.
The annual Ag Day recognizes California’s agricultural community by showcasing the scores of commodities that are produced in the state, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Held this year on Wednesday, March 21, it was also a day for agriculturists to show their appreciation by "bringing together state legislators, government leaders and the public for a half day of agricultural education and treats," said CDFA spokesperson Steve Lyle.
Said one woman visiting the beekeepers' booth: "The Häagen-Dazs ice cream is what I come for every year."
For that, she can thank the bees. And for the generous donation of ice cream, she can thank Häagen-Dazs.
After all, without honey bees and their pollination of fruits, vegetables and nuts, half of the ice cream brand's flavors would cease to exist.
Indeed, the declining bee population troubled hundreds of visitors stopping by the beekeepers' booth. The most frequently asked question: "How are the bees?"
Still declining. The mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD) is still a mystery, but the suspected culprits are a combination of factors, including pests, parasites, pesticides, diseases, malnutrition and stress.
This year's overall theme is "Know Your California Farmer." For those who love bees, it might as well be "Know Your California Beekeepers."
The California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) and the Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association (SABA), again will be answering questions about bees and the beekeeping industry and handing out free Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Honeystix (honey-filled straws), bee information, honey recipes, and the like. Also planned: a bee observation hive.
We've never heard anyone say "I hate bees!" at this annual event. Which is a good thing, too, as one-third of all the food we eat is pollinated by bees.
California Ag Day is sponsored by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), California Women for Agriculture, and the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.
The theme spotlights the contributions of farmers and ranchers from California's diverse counties and growing regions, according to CDFA spokesperson Steve Lyle, director of public affairs.
Specifically, says Lyle: "Ag Day is an annual event designed to recognize California's agricultural community by showcasing the numerous commodities that are produced in our state--and the farmers and ranchers who bring them to our tables. It is also a day for the agricultural community to show its appreciation of California's by bringing together state legislators, government leaders and the public for a half day of agricultural education and treats."
The event will be open to legislators and staff only from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and then open to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. CDFA Secretary Karen Ross will participate in a press conference, "Eat Local, Buy California Grown" at 11:30. At noon, a stage presentation will be emceed by Michael Marks "Your Produce Man."
What's planned at the beekeeping booth? Among those staffing the booth and answering questions will be newly elected CSBA president Bryan Ashurst of Westmorland; Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, a member of CSBA; and booth coordinator Carlen Jupe of Salida, secretary-treasurer of the CSBA.
Häagen-Dazs, which generously provides the ice cream, is a strong supporter of UC Davis bee research. Honey bees and ice cream go together; at least half of the brand's flavors require bee pollination. (Note: You'll want to visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. In addition, Häagen-Dazs provided funds for postdoctoral scholar Michelle Flenniken, who researches bee viruses.)
If you head over to the California State Capitol tomorrow (Tuesday, March 23) don't be too surprised if there's a John Deere tractor on the west steps.
March 23 is Ag Day when the state's urban and rural folks come out in force to celebrate the state's $34.8 billion ag industry.
"Agriculture drives California’s economy, creates jobs and provides a safe and nutrititous food supply," the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) says on its website.
Indeed it does.
And dozens of booths will be set up on the lawn to prove it. Even in the rain.
Elected officials and staff will tour the booths starting at 10:30 a.m. The public will join in from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
One of the booths drawing a lot of attention last year was the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) booth. The beekeepers gave away honey sticks, bee stickers and honey recipes, and displayed a bee observation hive housing a queen bee, worker bees and drones. Häagen-Dazs, which maintains a close relationship with beekeepers and the scientists at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, provided ice cream from the same booth. (Bees pollinate many of the ingredients in ice cream, including fruits, vegetables and almonds.)
CSBA and Häagen-Dazs will be there again tomorrow. So will dozens of other organizations and businesses. They include the California Farm Bureau Federation, Ag in the Classroom, California Strawberry Commission, 4-H, FFA, California State Grange, California Cattlemen's Association, Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, California Milk Advisory Board, Western Fairs' Association and scores of others.
In some way, shape, or form, however, honey bees make it all possible.