- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
That was the most commonly asked question at the California State Beekeepers' Association (CSBA) booth during the California Agriculture Day on Wednesday, March 22 on the west lawn of the State Capitol.
The annual event, heralding the first day of spring and showcasing the state's many crops and commodities, also offers an opportunity "for farmers and ranchers to show their appreciation by bringing together state legislators, government leaders and the public for agricultural education," a spokesperson said. This year's theme: "Food for Life."
Despite the light rain, several thousand crowded through the gates to visit the 52 booths, see 4-H and FFA animals, and to sample everything from tri-tip sandwiches from the Buckhorn Restaurant to strawberries from the California Strawberry Commission to milk from the Dairy Council of California to honey from the CSBA. Scores of other activities abounded.
The CSBA crew handed out some 2500 honey bee sticks-- long straws filled with honey--to two groups of people: legislators and staff from 10:30 to 11:30, and the public from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
A message affixed to each honey stick emphasized the importance of honey bees.
Honey bees, the five-bullet message related:
- Are the backbone of U.S. agriculture
- Pollinate 1/3 of the human diet
- Pollinate 120 various U.S. crops worth over $15 billion
- Pollinate California's $5.3 billion almond productions
- Produced over $200 million in U.S. honey and beeswax
The bees arrived, too. Providing the two bee observation hives: Bernardo Niño, who serves as the program manager of the California Master Beekeepers' Program, based at UC Davis, and Bill Cervenka, a longtime CSBA member. To visitor queries, they pointed out the whereabouts of the queen bee in the Laidlaw hive with: “Look for the pink one!” referring to the queen bee marked with a pink dot.
And just how are the bees doing?
"It's a challenge," Niño said, detailing some of the issues, from parasites, pesticides and pests to diseases and malnutrition. The "bee educators" also referred to the 44 percent loss: a national survey showed that beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2015 to April 2016. "Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—worsened compared with last year," according to Bee Informed. This marks the second consecutive survey year that summer loss rates rivaled winter loss rates. (See survey.)
CSBA, a non-profit organization serving California's beekeeping industry--primarily commercial beekeepers and queen breeders--actively supports bee research efforts; works with government officials to protect and promote the interest of the beekeeping industry; and educates the public about the beneficial aspects of honey bees. Officials say that the group supports research beneficial to beekeeping practices, provides a forum for the cooperation among beekeepers, and supports the economic viability of the beekeeping industry. Membership also includes a subscription to "The California Bee Times" and automatic membership in the $10,000 Bee Theft Rewards Program.
The E. L. Niño lab, directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, supports California beekeepers through research, extension, and outreach. Their website lists current beekeeping courses which began March 11 and continue through June 11. They also maintain the E. L. Niño Lab Facebook site.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
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.)