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."
It's National Pollinator Week and there's exciting news on the horizon.
Staff research associate Billy Synk of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, has been named director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m. (aka Project Apis mellifera or PAm),
PAm executive director Christi Heintz posted today:
"The last month has been a banner month for PAm. First, we are very fortunate to have Billy Synk joining our staff as Director of Pollination Programs. He's been UC Davis' staff research associate and beekeeper. Billy will be a great asset to PAm. He knows bees, the beekeeping industry, apiculture research, and has the skills to expand not only our habitat projects but also our research program. Secondly, the Federal Strategy to improve honey bee health was released. PAm was part of the process since the initial meeting in Washington D.C. and was mentioned twice in the final document. PAm is poised to take full advantage of the multi-agency focus on honey bees and will work hard to pursue opportunities that can help bees and beekeepers as a result of this effort. Lastly, six new studies on Varroa control were approved for funding. We are very excited to get this research underway and prevent that anniversary party for Varroa when September, 2017 rolls around and the pest has been in the country 30 years. We committed to several innovative studies that also held a good chance for success. This week is Pollinator Week, but every day is Honey Bee Day at Project Apis m.!"
As the director of Pollination Programs, Synk will be based in Sacramento and manage PAm's "Seeds for Bees" project and work with Pheasants Forever on the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly Partnership, Heintz said.
Said Synk: "I've always been really passionate about bees, and I care about this industry, I'm enthusiastic and energized by the opportunity to work with PAm while developing and implementing programs that benefit honey bees and beekeepers."
PAm's mission "is to fund and direct research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production." It is headquartered in Paso Robles. Heinz works out of southern Arizona. "We are geographically mobile, just like beekeepers!" Heintz quipped.
Synk holds a bachelor's degree in environmental policy and management from Ohio State University, where he was trained by noted bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who later worked at UC Davis before joining her fellow bee scientists at Washington State University. Synk appeared on the cover of the American Bee Journal in February 2014.
At UC Davis, Synk worked on research projects with bee scientists Brian Johnson and Neal Williams. He played a role in the behind-the-scenes publication of National Geographic's Quest for a Superbee. For about a year, Synk worked closely with Bay Area-based photographer Anand Varma on a time-lapsed photography project of the development of a honey bee: from an egg to an adult. You can see this incredible video on YouTube.
And, be sure to listen to Varma's TED talk on bees.
Varma's time-lapse video of 2500 images vividly shows the development of eggs to pupae to adults. He captured the video at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis. Varma's images of a bee in flight, and a close-up of an emerging worker bee are also from the Laidlaw apiary.
Those are our girls!
Indeed, our bees from the Laidlaw facility figured quite prominently in the piece, “Quest for a Superbee,” published in the May edition of National Geographic.
Staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk worked with and assisted photographer Varma for about a year. Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen, who retired last June after 38 years of service, served as a research fact-checker. National Geographic contacted him for data confirmation.
The article, authored by Charles Mann, questions “Can the world's most important pollinators be saved?' and ponders “how scientists and breeders are trying to create a hardier honeybee.”
In his article, Mann explores what it would take to build a better bee. He touches on RNAi and quotes bee researcher Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota and recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” as saying “If you target one specific area, the organism will always make an end run around it.” She advocates a “healthier, stronger” bee, or what Mann writes as “one that can fight (varroa) mites and disease on its own, without human assistance.”
Spivak was the keynote speaker at the Bee Symposium, hosted May 9 by the Honey and Pollination Center in the UC Davis Conference Center. It drew a crowd of 360. (Soon we'll post video from the symposium.)
Spivak and John Harbo of the USDA's research center in Baton Rouge, La. “both succeeded in breeding versions of hygienic bees by the late 1990s,” Mann writes. “A few years after that, scientists realized that hygienic bees are less effective as the mites grow more numerous.”
Both Spivak and Varma have presented TED talks on honey bees.
Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing
Both of the TED talks should be required viewing for anyone who wants to know more about bees and their needs. Maybe these TED talks should be TEB talks--Take Every Bee Seriously.
But over at the 140th annual Dixon May Fair (May 7-May 10), you'll see another kind of buzz, another kind of palace and another kind of royalty.
The Buzzingham Palace will be buzzing. It's a bee observation hive belonging to the Honey and Pollination Center, UC Davis. Looking through the glass, fairgoers can observe a colony in action--the queen laying eggs, worker bees (females) tending to her every need and the needs of the colony, including the drones (males).
The bee observation hive is a product from Mann Lake, Woodland, said.Amina Harris, who directs the Honey and Pollination Center. The bees were donated by Ray Olivarez of Olivarez Honey Bees, Orland.
Staff research associate Billy Synk of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is tending the bees in the Buzzingham Palace.
The observation hive will be showcased inside a booth in the Southard Floriculture Building along with posters, photos and scientific information about bees from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Entomologists and graduate students from UC Davis will staff the booth. Among them will be entomologist Jeff Smith, an associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who will talk about insects and spiders. Fairgoers can hold Peaches, a rose-haired tarantula; walking sticks, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.
Want to see Buzzingham Palace, hold Peaches and talk to the entomologists?
The fairgrounds are located at 655 S. First St., Dixon. The Dixon May Fair is the oldest district fair and fairgrounds in the state of California, according to chief executive officer Patricia "Pat" Conklin. It's filled with many agricultural-related exhibits in keeping with the theme, "Nuttin' But Fun." (Think walnuts and almonds, two of the major agricultural industries in the county.)
Fair hours are:
Thursday, May 7: 4 to 11 p.m.
Friday, May 8: Noon to 11 p.m.
Saturday, May 9: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, May 10: Noon to 11 p.m.
For more information check out Dixon May Fair's "Fair at a Glance."
Meanwhile, the Buzzingham Palace is buzzing!
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is showcasing insects in the Floriculture Building, where displays include a bee observation hive from the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, butterfly and other specimens from the Bohart Museum of Entomology, and arts and crafts from the Honey and Pollination Center.
In Today's Youth Building, six-year-old Mieko Heiser of Dixon is displaying "My Bug Exhibit," telling fairgoers how to catch, identity and pin insects. Her pinned insects include a honey bee, lacewing, field cricket and ladybug larvae. And, oh, yes, a spider (not an insect, but an arthropod).
"It's an amazing exhibit," said Sharon Payne, building superintendent and president of the Solano County 4-H Council. It won a best-of-show award, spotlighting the fair's theme, "Best of Show."
Here's what's "buggy" in the Floriculture Building, headed by florist Kathy Hicks:
- Entomologist Jeff Smith of the Bohart Museum will let fairgoers pet and hold a 22-year-old rose-haired tarantula from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., both Saturday and Sunday, May 10-11. He also plans to bring along Madagascar hissing cockroaches and walking sticks. Those are a few of the live critters, permanent residents, in the Bohart Museum's "petting zoo." The UC Davis-based museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is home to nearly eight million insect specimens.
- Billy Synk, manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is scheduled to answer questions about bees from 11 to 4 p.m., Friday, May 9.
- Cameron Jasper, bee scientist with the Brian Johnson lab at UC Davis, plans to share bee information with fairgoers from 4 to 6 on Friday, May 9.
- Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, headquartered in the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, will show youngsters how to make bee/flower puppets from 1 to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 10.
- You can also expect to see native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, there, too, schedule permitting.
Meanwhile, over on the UC Davis campus, a special event will take place on Friday, May 9 in the department's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The occasion: National Public Gardens Day. The open house will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and includes a guided tour from 6 to 6:30. Haven manager Christine Casey says "We'll also be giving away sunflower plants along with information about how to monitor them for bee activity."
The half-acre bee garden is open daily from dawn to dusk. Expect to see lots of bees and other pollinators, plus the amazing work of the UC Davis Art/Science Program.