Tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 18) is National Honey Bee Day.
A small group of beekeepers originated the observance back in 2009 to spotlight bees and beekeeping. They petitioned and obtained a proclamation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which set aside the fourth Saturday of August to mark the occasion.
It's important to educate the public--especially children, our next generation--about the importance of honey bees and other pollinators.
And that's just what the UC Davis Pollination Education Program is doing, thanks to California State Extension apiculturist and faculty member Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
“This program was developed to ensure that our young scientists and future voters are aware of the importance of pollinators to our food production and ecosystems," Niño related. "We are also very excited to partner with programs across the university to recruit and support UC Davis students in becoming interns and mentors for the program. This program has already generated so much excitement with the kids and we want to provide this opportunity to as many schools as possible.”
We recently watched a group of third graders from Amador County learn about honey bees and other pollinators when Nino and her colleagues hosted the youngsters in the Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. A half-acre public garden installed in 2009 on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, it provided the perfect place for the five interactive learning stations.
Postdoctoral scholar Laura Brutscher of the Niño lab kneels by an educational beekeeping display: a beehive, a smoker, a hive tool and beekeeper protective gear. She discusses the residents of the hive: the queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males). The third-graders, sitting, standing or kneeling in the garden, listen to her wide-eyed.
“Who knows what the job of a drone is?” Brutscher asks.
A hand shoots up. “The drones protect the queen!” a boy declares.
The students learn that the honey bee colony is a matriarchal society. The females do all the work, performing specific tasks with job titles such as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers. The queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day during peak season.
The third graders then suit up, donning assorted beekeeper protective gear. They pose gleefully in oversized suits while adults on the tour--teachers, parents and mentors--photograph them.
Elina Lastro Niño
Niño, who also directs the highly successful California Master Beekeeper Program, explains pollination and how honey bees differ from such generalists as bumble bees and such specialists as squash bees. She invites the students to build their own bee, using pipe cleaners of various lengths to mimic how they are able to pollinate flowers. The youngsters also taste apples, blueberries and almonds. Honey bees, she tells them, pollinate one third of the food we eat.
Charley Nye, beekeeper and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, zeroes in on the products of the hive. “When we see bees flying around, what are they doing there?” he asks.
“They're out gathering nectar and pollen,” responds one youngster.
“That's right,” Nye says. He then introduces them to five varietals of honey: almond, coffee, cotton, blackberry, meadowfoam.
The students and adults like the meadowfoam the best. “It tastes like cotton candy!” one girl says, slowly savoring the flavor she found reminiscent of a county fair.
Wendy Mather, California Master Beekeeper Program manager, shows the youngsters a bee vacuum device and how to catch and release bees. They examine them close-up. Others at her interactive learning station craft seed cookies, decorated pots, and planted seeds for pollinators. They also view the bee and syrphid (hover) fly specimens loaned by pollination ecologist Neal Williams, UC Davis professor of entomology. The hover fly, sometimes called a flower fly, is a major pollinator.
Another station focuses on solitary bees: leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees. The students paint nest boxes and learn how the native bees differ from honey bees. Honey bees are not natives of America; European colonists brought them to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1622. Honey bees did not arrive in California until 1853, the year a beekeeper installed colonies near San Jose.
Marcel Ramos, lab assistant in the Elina Niño lab, opens a hive inside a netted enclosure and showed the students the queen bee, workers and drones and pulled out frames of honey.
It was indeed, a honey of a day, and the youngsters learned a lot about bees.
The event received financial support from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Programmatic Initiative Grant, the Scott and Liberty Munson Family, and matching funds from Microsoft.
Ron Antone, chair of the Farms of Amador and an Amador County Master Gardener, coordinated the Amador County visit, which drew third-graders from four schools: 67 from Plymouth and Sutter Creek elementary and "about the same number" from Pioneer and Pine Grove elementary. “The tour was coordinated and funded by Farms of Amador,” he said. “We are also associated with the Amador County Farmers Market Association."
“The program presented by Elina and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven team was an incredible experience for all involved: students, parents, teachers and mentors from Farms of Amador and Amador County Master Gardeners," Antone said. “I could not have imagined a more successful trip."
UC Davis Resources:
Celebrate bees on Saturday, Aug. 18: The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, has scheduled an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18. Saturday is National Honey Bee Day. The event is free and family friendly. The garden is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
Activities, according to academic program manager Christine Casey, will include:
- Learn about how to grow healthy fruits and vegetables at home and how to encourage pollinators in the garden for best yield
- See the bees in action in our demonstration garden
- Cooking demonstration and recipe ideas
- Bee and plant experts to answer your questions
And what better time for the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to host an open house than during National Pollinator Week?
It's from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 23 at its bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central UC Davis campus.
Here's what you can expect to see or do:
- learn how to catch and observe bees up close
- see honey bees at work in an observation beehive
- learn about bee diversity and identification
- learn about what and how to plant for bees
- learn about growing and good pollination in home fruit gardens
- see easy-to-grow bee plants and solitary bee houses available for a donation to the garden.
A Little History: The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, installed in the fall of 2009 and located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, off Hopkins Road, is a half-acre garden devoted to bee pollinator conservation and education.
It was founded and sprang to life during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team – landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki – won the design competition. The judges were Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture; David Fujino, executive director, California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Others with a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, founded and directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis. Miss Bee Haven, a six-foot long worker bee sculpture, the work of Billick, anchors the garden. The art in the garden is the work of their students, ranging from those in Entomology 1 class to community residents. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden.
Today. Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, serves as the faculty advisor and director of the garden. Staff member Christine Casey is the academic program management officer. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, plays a key role in the garden. Thorp has recorded more than 80 species of bees foraging in the garden since 2009. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California.
Or at least you saw the crowd circling Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The bees buzzed and so did the festival-goers.
Niño presented several "live bee" demonstrations in a circular screened tent. She opened the bee hive, pulled out frames, and showed the crowd the three castes of bees: the queen, worker bees and drones.
Niño talked about beekeeping and what bees need, and then passed a couple of drones through the tent to the crowd. Some gasped, not realizing that drones are males and cannot sting. Other marveled at the docile drones, took cell phone photos and petted them. The drones didn't seem to mind!
All in all, it was a great day for bees at the California Honey Festival, which is annually sponsored by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and the City of Woodland.
"Bees face many threats today—it is the goal of the festival to help attendees understand the importance of bees to food diversity in the United States." The California Honey Festival's mission is to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping. Through lectures and demonstrations, the festival goers learned about bees and how to keep them healthy. Issues facing the bees include pests, pesticides, diseases, malnutrition, and climate changes.
How many attended the festival? About 30,000, said Harris. (That's not counting the bees!) Harris noted that the inaugural festival drew about 20,000. Organizers had expected about 3000. Next year: maybe 40,000 or more?
Be sure to check out the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) newly posted video on the festival, featuring Niño. It's excellent. Although she's based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, she's California's Extension apiculturist. We are fortunate to have her! See the UC ANR video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUPEdMBYXZY
Resources? The E. L. Niño lab website is at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu.
Their Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/.
Their California Master Beekeeper Program is at https://cambp.ucdavis.edu.
Think fun, food, friends, family, and free.
The honey-of-an-event--attendance is free--promises to be both entertaining and educational.
Don't know much about bees or honey? Or have questions? You'll find out from the experts.
"This year's festival is like a growing beehive," said Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, which is partnering with the City of Woodland to stage the event. What can folks expect? "Everything that happened last year, but more, better and bigger!"
Last year they anticipated 3,000. Were they ever surprised when they drew a crowd of 20,000. Even more are expected this year as folks make a "bee line" to Woodland.
The California Honey Festival's mission is to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping, Harris says. Through lectures and demonstrations, the crowd can learn about bees and how to keep them healthy. Issues facing the bees include pests, pesticides, diseases, malnutrition, and climate changes.
One of the highlights: Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, California's state apiculturist, and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, will be "opening a bee hive to show attendees just how a bee hive works," said Harris. "The intriguing catch? The hive will be full of bees!"
Nino, working in a circular screened tent, will explain exactly how the beehive works. She will show the difference between the queen and the workers and drones; explain how bees draw out wax in the frames and store honey in the cells; talk about how the frames are placed within the hive to maximize the bees' efficiency; and field questions. Her "live bee" demonstrations are scheduled for 11:15 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:45 in the bee tent, UC Davis Stage.
The crowd can also learn what to plant in their gardens to feed the bees and other pollinators. Honey bees pollinate one-third of the American diet.
Although admission to the festival is free, there will be plenty of opportunities to order food and drinks from booths, restaurants and bars. Drinks will include mead and honey beers on tap.
Yes, there will be cooking demonstrations featuring honey. Yes, you'll be able to sample honey at the free honey tastings. Yes, there's a Kids' Zone. Yes, live bands will perform throughout the day. They include Gold Souls, City of Trees Brass Band, Sam Chance and the Untraditonal, Cameron Calloway, and Mojo Green. (See festival schedule)
Question: If bees perform the waggle dance--which they do--what do happy human beings perform at a California Honey Festival?
You'll just have to "bee there" to find out!
And when the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology hosts a honey tasting on Saturday, April 21 as part of the UC Davis 104th annual UC Davis Picnic Day, it promises to be "berry, berry good."
"Berry good" as in honey made from berries.
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño and staff will offer "a taste of honey"--of such honey varietals as blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, and snowberry--plus almond and buckwheat--from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Briggs Hall.
When you think about it, Picnic Day is rather like "Bug Appreciation Day" (starring honey bees, too!), courtesy of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. In fact, Picnic Day officials have nominated "Entomology at UC Davis" (122 Briggs) for a special campus award under the category "At One With Nature." The honey tasting booth in the Briggs Hall atrium is a nominee for a special award in the category, "Hunger Fix." (Access this link to vote from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for your favorite exhibits on Picnic Day). The winners will be publicized on the Picnic Day website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts after Picnic Day.
Here's where the "go-bugs" action is:
- At Briggs Hall, located off Kleiber Hall Drive, hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m.
- At the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, hours are from 10 to 3 p.m.
And here's where more honey is:
- UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Robert Mondavi Institute, Old Davis Road. Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, says honey will be available for tasting on Picnic Day and for sale all year around.
Coordinating the events at Briggs Hall are forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab and the Entomology Graduate Students' Association. Heading the activities at the Bohart Museum are director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, and Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
For a full schedule of insect-themed activities, see the news story on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website. You'll find dozens of activities, including maggot art, cockroach races, fly-tying, and scavenger hunts, to name a few.
And honey tasting. Show me the honey!