- 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.