It's National Honey Bee Day or National Honey Bee Awareness Day, launched in 2009 by newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsak during his first year of office with the Obama Administration.
The goals are the same as those in 2009:
- Promote and advance beekeeping
- Educate the public about honey bees and beekeeping
- Ensure that the public is aware of environmental concerns affecting honey bees
It's a day when we applaud our bees, and the bee scientists, beekeepers, commercial breeders, and all the educational, scientific and research organizations that friend them, fund them, or fuel them.
Indeed, one third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. What many folks don't realize is that honey bees are not native to the United States. European colonists brought them here in 1622, and it wasn't until 1853 when a beekeeper in the San Jose area introduced them to California.
Statistics provided by the National Honey Bee Day officials, help tell the story of the industry:
- For every 100 beekeepers, 95 percent are hobbyists, 4 percent are sideliners, and 1 percent are commercial beekeepers.
- Beekeeping dates back at least 4500 years.
- Beekeeping can be a sustainable endeavor.
- Renting bees to farmers in need of pollination generates a source of income.
- Beehives are kept on farms, in backyards, on balconies, and high-rise rooftops, all across the country.
Bees will also take center stage at the 40th annual conference of the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) at the University of California, Davis. The conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 in the Activities and Recreation Center, is quite special because the organization was founded at UC Davis. WAS president is Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology promises an educational program, complete with speakers, networking, tours and a silent auction.
Among those speaking will be Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, who will address the crowd on "The Impact of Varroa on Honey Bee Reproductive Castes (Queen Bee, Worker Bee and Drone): Where Will the Research Lead Us?” Her talk is at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7.
Her research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding the synergistic effects of pesticides on queen health and adult workers in order to improve beekeeping management practice, testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, a major pest of bees, and understanding the benefits of supplemental forage in almond orchards on honey bee health. (Read her apiary newsletters, access her lab website at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/ or her lab Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab/)
Writer Stephanie Parreira of the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) recently interviewed Niño for a podcast on bee pests and how to manage them, using IPM methods. The podcast appears on the UC ANR Green Blog. You can read the transcript here.
Niño mentioned that varroa mites remain the key concern of beekeepers. "In fact, when I first started my position here as an extension specialist at UC Davis, I asked beekeepers what is one of the things that they would like me to focus on, and about ninety-nine percent of them said varroa mites," she said in the podcast. "Varroa mites are a problem because they basically suck honey bee blood, or honey bee hemolymph, they transmit viruses, [and] they can suppress immune genes in developing and adult bees. So they can kill the colony, basically, if they're not managed properly. We have seen in our own colonies that if we do not treat or manage varroa mites, we know that we will lose that colony over winter."
If you're interested in attending the WAS conference and learning more about bees, you can register here. The speakers represent a wide spectrum of expertise and topics, from top-bar beekeeping to pesticides to how to keep your colonies healthy. Or, you can contact President Mussen at email@example.com for more information.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Without the honey bee's pollination services, there would be no peppers, such as the ones that administrative assistant Nancy Dullum of the UC Davis Department of Entomology is holding. Bees pollinate one-third of the American diet.
So today, on the eve of National Honey Bee Awareness Day, it's time to pay tribute to the insect that makes it all happen.
The goals of National Honey Bee Awareness Day: to promote and advance beekeeping, to educate the public about honey bees and beekeeping, and to engage the public about the related environmental concerns.
The next major celebration involving the honey bee is the grand opening of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 11 on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
The key goals of the garden, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted last fall, are to provide bees with a year-around food source for the Laidlaw Facility bees, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
The event will include garden tours, hands-on demonstrations, educational speakers, and children's activities.
What's planted in the haven?
Fruits, vegetables, herbs and ornamental flowers.
Among the trees: almond, apple, persimmon and plum.
Among the ornamentals: salvia, seaside daisy, purple coneflower, Mexican hat flower and roses.
Herbs? They include basil, oregano, mint and rosemary.
Fruits and vegetables? Look for strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, watermelon, artichoke, broccoli and eggplant.
And peppers? Does the haven have peppers?
Definitely! They're not ready for Peter Piper to pick, though.
Without this "something," your table fare would be sparse.
And now, there's an official day to celebrate them.
The second annual National Honey Bee Awareness Day is set Saturday, Aug. 21.
The good folks at Pennsylvania Apiculture last year launched the first National Honey Bee Awareness Day to "bring together beekeepers, bee associations and clubs, as well as other interested groups and individuals to connect with communities and advance beekeeping."
They created a website filled with educational information, fun facts about bees, and how to help them survive.
This year the focus is on honey, local honey. The theme: "Local Honey-- Good for Bees, You, and the Environment!”
Of course, bees are more valuable for their pollination services than the honey they produce. Honey bees pollinate about one-third of the American diet. In fact, it's said that "between 50 to 80 percent of the world’s food supply is directly or indirectly affected by honey bee pollination," according to the National Honey Bee Awareness Day website. "Whether it’s pollination of apples, or pollination of the seeds to produce grain for livestock, the food chain is linked to honey bees. The world's production of food is dependent on pollination, provided by the honey bees."
So it was with great concern that we read last week about the killing of two bee colonies at an urban farm in San Francisco. Seems that someone invaded the Hayes Valley Farm--where the non-profit San Francisco Bee-Cause keeps its bees--and deliberately sprayed pesticides inside the openings of three hives. Two colonies collapsed and died--and not because of colony collapse disorder (CCD). The third hive sustained major losses.
Pesticides. Pesticides killed them.
Each hive held between 60,000 and 100,000 bees, so around 200,000 bees died.
Ironically, the bee hives were there not only for pollination, but as educational tools. And the honey was to be sold to benefit more educational activities.
Some theorize that the culprit hates or fears bees, and sought to eliminate them.
Perhaps the vandal would want to exist on foods NOT requiring bee pollination, such as wind-pollinated or self-pollinated crops like barley, corn, oats, rice, rye, sorghums and wheat.
All hail the honey bee.
Tomorrow (Saturday, Aug. 22) is the first-ever National Honey Bee Awareness Day, as proclaimed by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
It's "hive time" this insect has its own day.
After all, as Vilsack says, bee pollination is responsible for “$15 billion in added crop value and is an essential component of the production of more than 90 food crops.”
Vilsack points out that "Honey bees are critical to the process of pollination of our crops throughout our country and an important part of maintaining a stable and sustainable ecosystem."
He hopes that Honey Bee Awareness Day will "help highlight this important role, as well as the significant threat honey bees now face from the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD)."
"The role" and "the threat"--two good reasons to increase public awareness.
We bee-lieve, however, that we shouldn't limit National Honey Bee Awareness Day to a single day in August. The entire month should be National Honey Bee Awareness Month.