- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
When youngsters meet Alyssa Fine, the first thing they ask is “Do you ever get stung?”
They also ask if the bee population is “still” declining and if she’s a beekeeper.
Yes, yes, and yes.
Alyssa Fine, 23, of Monongahela, Penn., is accustomed to answering questions. As the 2012 American Honey Bee Queen, sponsored by the American Beekeeping Federation, she’s an ambassador to the beekeeping and honey industries. One of her responsibilities is to educate the public about the importance of bees and the merits of honey.
And that’s just “fine” with her.
“I really enjoy this,” she said enthusiastically.
A 2010 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management, Fine is spending 11 days in California, one of some 23 states on her itinerary during her yearlong role as the American Honey Bee Queen.
She speaks at state and county fairs, festivals, schools, beekeeping association meetings and to the news media, spreading the word about the importance of bees. She monitors the American Beekeeping Federation’s Facebook page, and the kids’ blog, buzzingacrossamerica.com.
Fine also works closely with youth development groups, including Girl Scouts, 4-H, Boy Scouts. She hopes to “help bring back the beekeeping badge” for Girl Scouts.
Today she toured the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis, and the adjacent Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden that's anchored with a six-foot-long ceramic bee sculpture.
The sculpture, created by Donna Billick of Davis and cleverly titled "Miss Bee Haven," portrays a morphologically correct worker bee.
Alyssa Fine recognized the worker bee right away.
No stranger to bees, she's been around bees all her life. Her family owns the Fine Family Apiary in Monongahela, located 20 miles south of Pittsburgh. They keep about 150 hives and sell honey at farmers’ markets, at country stores, and via word of mouth. They also offer pollination services on area farms.
Alyssa's earliest childhood memories include running through a field of clover and getting stung by a bee; enjoying fresh comb honey on the front porch; and crafting scores of school projects on honey bees.
So, going from bee onlooker to bee fancier to beekeeper to Pennsylvania Honey Bee Queen to American Honey Bee Queen seemed quite natural. For, "bee-neath" the sash and the crown is a beekeeper who loves to talk about bees and their role in agriculture.
One thing's for sure: come next January, when her year as American Honey Bee Queen ends, she'll replace the crown with a bee veil.
Meanwhile, Alyssa is enjoying her California stay at the BD Ranch and Apiary in Wilton, owned by veteran beekeeper Brian Fishback and his wife, Darla, where they maintain 100 hives. Brian, a volunteer at the Laidlaw facility, is active in area, state and national beekeeping organizations.
Plans for the rest of the week? It's off to the California State Fair in Sacramento.
In fact, State Fair visitors can see their American Honey Bee Queen tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday at the Insect Pavilion where she will be greeting the public, handing out honey-based recipes, and answering questions in front of Fishback’s bee observation hive.
At 2 p.m. on Friday, she'll offer a special treat to State Fair visitors. She will present a cooking demonstration at 2 p.m. at The Farm. She'll prepare glazed skillet chicken, cole slaw and lemonade--all with honey, of course.
As for the Fishbacks, they've hosted an American Bee Queen for the past three years because they believe strongly in the American Beekeeping Federation's mission and message.
“Having an American Honey Bee Queen," he said, "is really good for public education, for people to learn about the importance of bees."
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It's a crucial time for bees, which are the victims of the mysterious colony collapse disorder, probably closely linked with a multitude of issues, including viruses, parasites, pests, pesticides, diseases, stress and malnutrition.
As the guest of veteran beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton, past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association and a member of the California State Beekeepers’ Association (CSBA), Bryson will be helping out at the CSBA booth July 16 to 21. The booth is located in the California Foodstyle building.
She also will be working in the insect pavilion at “The Farm,” which includes an observation hive. Bryson will answer questions from the public on Saturday, July 16 from 2 to 3 p.m. and on Wednesday, July 20 from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m.
In addition, she’ll be speaking at the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 19 at 4049 Marconi Ave., Sacramento. The site is located in the second module behind the Town and Country Lutheran Church.
The American Honey Bee Queen competition is sponsored by the American Beekeeping Federation.
“As the American Honey Bee Queen, I travel across the United states promoting beekeeping and the use of honey,” she said. She educates the public with “facts on the beekeeping and honey industry concerning pollination of our nation’s crops and how dependent we are on the honey bee for agriculture, how honey is a healthy substitute for sugar, and how honey also extends the shelf life of baked products and adds that extra special something, such as taste or texture to other products.”
Bryson’s year as American Honey Queen ends in January when she will crown the next queen at the American Beekeeping Federation’s annual conference in Las Vegas.
Bryson is a junior at Hagerstown Community College, Hagerstown, Md., where she is double-majoring in English and forensic science. She is a member of the National Honor Society and has been on the dean’s list for the last two years.
A 4-H member for 10 years, she serves as a leader for two clubs. Bryson has kept bees for three years, and manages five hives in her family's apiary. In her leisure time, she said she enjoys reading, sewing, and caring for the many animals on her family's small farm.
Fishback, a volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, owns and operates BD Ranch and Apiaries, Wilton.