One of the ways is through the 4-H Youth Development Program. Who can join 4-H, which stands for head, heart, health and hands and which follows the motto, "making the best better?" It's open to all youths ages 5 to 19. In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in projects ranging from arts and crafts, computers and leadership to dog care, poultry, rabbits and woodworking, according to Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H representative. They develop leadership skills, engage in public speaking, and share what they've learned with other through presentations.
At the recent Solano County 4-H Presentation Day, held at Sierra K-8 School, Vacaville, 4-H'ers presented demonstrations, educational displays, illustrated talks, an improv, and an interpretative reading.
The interpretative reading was about bees.
Kailey Mauldin, 15, a sixth-year 4-H'er and member of the Elmira 4-H Club, Vacaville, delivered an award-winning presentation on Sue Monk Kidd's New York Times' bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees. Kailey read and interpreted passages, and answered questions from evaluators JoAnn Brown, April George and Kelli Mummert.
Kailey related that the story is set in a fictitious rural town in South Carolina in 1964 during the civil rights era. Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens "has just run away from her abusive father named T-Ray," Kailey recounted. "Her mother passed away at an early age." In going though her mother's belongings, Lilly finds an address that leads her to a farm where she meets three sisters, May, June and August, strong African-American women who run a beekeeping business.
Kailey read several passages about Lily's first experience with bees. The book is in Lily's voice.
August, opening a hive, tells Lily: “Egg laying is the main thing, Lily. She's the mother of every bee in the hive, and they all depend on her to keep it going. I don't care what their job is—they know the queen is their mother. She's the mother of thousands.”
The way the bees poured out, rushing up all of a sudden in spirals of chaos and noise caused me to jump.
“Don't move an inch,” said August. “Remember what I told you. Don't be scared.”
A bee flew straight at my forehead, collided with the net, and bumped against my skin.
“She's giving you a little warning,” August said. “When they bump your forehead, they're saying I've got my eye on you, so you be careful. Send them love and everything will be fine."
I love you, I love you, I said in my head. I LOVE YOU. I tried to say it 32 different ways...
Eventually, Lily experiences "a frenzy of love" as the bees seem to say: "Look who's here, it's Lily. She is so weary and lost. Come on, bee sisters."
Interpreting the passages she'd just read, Kailey said: "I learned all bees have mothers and that love isn't who or what, it is now...The way they took her (Lily) in, that was love. Love is everywhere."
Kailey isn't enrolled in a 4-H beekeeping project--yet.
(Editor's Note: Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño offers beekeeping classes at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. See website.)
Take, for example, the Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program.
At the countywide annual Project Skills Day, held last Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Vaca Pena Middle School, Vacaville, scores of 4-H'ers showed what they've learned in their projects. The projects ranged from photography to pigs, from fishing to gardening, and from poinsettias to poultry.
Two involved beekeeping.
Ian Weber of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, a second-year beekeeper, discussed "The Many Different Parts of a Bee Hive," explaining his project to evaluators and fielding their questions. For his efforts, Weber won a showmanship award, one of 11 youths to win the top honor. He competed in the senior division, ages 14 to 19.
Another Vaca Valley 4-H'er and beekeeper, Miriam Laffitte, entered in the junior division, ages 9-10, chose to discuss wax moths, a pest of beehives. She creatively titled her project "Wacky Wax Moths."
They are among the youths taught by beekeeper Garry Haddon Jr., the project leader. Like all the 4-H leaders, he is a volunteer who donates his time and expertise.
The 4-H program, which follows the motto, “Making the Best Better,” is open to youths ages 5 to 19. The four H's stand for head, heart, health and hands. In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in a variety of projects. To name a few: computers, leadership, woodworking, poultry, cavies, rabbits, foods and nutrition, dog care and training, and arts and crafts. They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools, Williams points out. (Access the 4-H website at http://solano4h.ucanr.edu/Get_Involved/ for more information about the Solano County program, which currently encompasses 12 clubs.)
It's quite true that 4-H'ers (I'm speaking here as an alumnus and longtime adult volunteer) learn many life skills that they would not otherwise learn at home, or in public or private schools.
And that includes keeping bees!
Eleven-year-old Lexi Haddon Mendes of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, who has been keeping bees for five years, can tell you.
"Who Lives in the Hive?" was the title of her project at the recent Solano County 4-H Presentation Day, held in the Tremont Elementary School, Dixon.
Lexi enjoys keeping bees and learning more about them. “My uncle, Gary Haddon, is the project leader and I've been keeping bees on his property for five years,” she said.
Evaluators Myah Waldvogel of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville and Linda Layton of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo, listened closely and asked questions.
Who lives in the hive? "In a honey bee colony, there are three castes or three kinds of bees,” Lexi told them. She listed the residents as the queen, the workers, and the drones. “The queen's job is to lay eggs, eggs and more eggs," she told them. "The workers are females and do almost all the work in the hive. The drones are all male bees."
A male bee's only job is to mate with the queen, Lexi said. And after mating with the queen, the drone dies. "In early fall, all the drones that have not mated are kicked out of the hive. This preserves precious food resources so the colony can survive through the winter.”
Lexi displayed photos of the queen, drone and worker bees. The queen, she said, can lay 1500 to 2000 eggs per day in the summer. The workers form the largest population in the hive and are in charge of food storage, cleaning, foraging and protection of the hive, as well as tending the queen, caring for the brood, regulating the temperature of the hive, and wax production.
Worker bees can live for five to eight weeks in the summer, Lexi said, and can “live longer during the winter when there's less work to be done."
Both Waldvogel and Layton said they found her presentation informative and fascinating. "We need more people to keep bees," Layton added.
The end result? Lexi received a gold award, the highest of the three awards given (gold, blue and red).
The Solano County 4-H Presentation Day is an opportunity for youths to showcase their projects and hone their presentation skills, said Solano County 4-H Program representative Valerie Williams. Dozens of 4-H'ers from Solano's 11 clubs offered presentations that covered everything from photography, horticulture and scrapbooking to rabbits, cavies, poultry and beef.
Lexi, entered in the 11-14 age group, was the youngest of the beekeepers delivering talks at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. Two teenage beekeepers also won gold: Ryan Anenson, 15, of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, who gave an educational display/talk on “Queen Bee” in the 14-19 age group, and Francis Agabayani, 14, of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, who gave an illustrated talk on “To Bee or Not to Bee” in the 14-19 age group.
Lexi, Ryan and Francis are among the 38 gold winners from the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day eligible to participate in the Central Area Presentation Day, to be held April 1 at the Waterloo School, Stockton.
The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program, follows the motto, “Making the Best Better.” 4-H, which stands for head, heart, health and hands, is open to youths ages 5 to 19. "In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in projects ranging from arts and crafts, computers and leadership to dog care, poultry, rabbits and woodworking," Williams said. "They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools.” For more information, she may be reached at email@example.com.
It's about other projects, too, from "A" to "Z."
And "B." Don't forget the honey bees.
Solano County's Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, has just launched a beekeeping project, led by adult leader Sarah Anenson. It's a first-year project that's small in numbers but big in enthusiasm.
Her son, Ryan Anenson, 15, serves as the teen leader. Other members are Isabel Martinez, 12, and Caitlin Miller, 17.
They're learning about bees and sharing the information. Ryan crafted an informational display board, "Queen Bee, Star of the Hive," for the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day, held recently in Vallejo, and responded to questions from his evaluators. Solano County 4-H Program representative Valerie Williams described Project Skills Day as an opportunity for 4-H'ers to share what they've learned and to gain experience in presentation and interaction skills.
One of the evaluators praised Anenson's presentation with: "Excellent presentation. You're knowledgeable and passionate on your subject. You were pleasant to talk to. Your eye contact, speaking ability and overall conversation was engaging and informative. We look forward to seeing you and your board at Presentation Day and beyond."
Sarah Anenson decided to launch the 4-H beekeeping project after walking to a local vintage fair and noticing an observation beehive surrounded by children of all ages. "They were fascinated by the bees and were a captive audience for hours--even our teenagers were mesmerized," she said. "It was then that we realized that a 4-H honey bee project would be beneficial for our youth. To help give our project a kick-start, we received our beehive and hive tools from our good friend, Mr. Don Ritchey."
She added: "We are currently raising only one colony, though we hope to raise more in the near future. One of our hopes is that we will receive bee hive and honey bee donations from our community. Raising honey bees, although highly beneficial, is costly to new beekeepers."
The Tremont 4-H'ers acquired their first honey bee colony last April from Breanna Sieferman of California Queen Bees, Woodland. The bees are now in a Dixon almond grove for pollination, which is expected to start around Feb. 14. "We are glad that our honey bees will help with the pollination of the almonds, but we are not seeking compensation," Anenson said. "We are simply happy to learn what we can about the honey bees, and at some point reap the rewards in honey."
Meanwhile, Ryan Anenson is getting ready to share his beekeeping project at another countywide event, the Solano County 4-H Presentation, to be held Saturday, Feb. 25 at Tremont Elementary School, 355 Pheasant Run Drive, Dixon. The event begins at 10 a.m. and visitors are welcome.
The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), follows the motto, “Making the best better.” 4-H, which stands for head, heart, health and hands, is open to youths ages 5 to 19. In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in projects ranging from arts and crafts, computers and leadership to dog care, poultry, rabbits and woodworking. They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools, said Williams, who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on the program. Solano County has 11 4-H clubs: Dixon Ridge 4-H, Maine Prairie 4-H, Roving Clovers 4-H and Tremont, 4-H, all of Dixon; Elmira 4-H, Pleasants Valley 4-H and Vaca Valley 4-H, all of the Vacaville area; Westwind 4-H and Suisun Valley 4-H, both of Fairfield-Suisun; Rio Vista 4-H of Rio Vista; and Sherwood Forest 4-H, Vallejo.
He readily names the three castes: queen bee, worker bee and drone. He explains that the workers are all females, and that drones are males and they can't sting because they have no stingers. He knows how to tend a hive and he knows the importance of bee pollination.
His father, beekeeper Garry Haddon Jr., of GLH Honey Bees, Fairfield, has kept bees for four years.
Nathaniel talked about bees at the recent Solano County 4-H Presentation Day, held at Willis Jepson Middle School, Vacaville. The annual event is an opportunity for 4-H'ers to share what they've learned in their projects, and to gain presentation experience.
Nathaniel illustrated his hand-crafted poster, “Honey Bees,” with drawings of the queen bee, worker bee and drone; a drawing of the life cycle of a bee; and photos of him working the hives and holding a frame.
“Thank you for telling us about the bees,” one of the evaluators told him. “We learned a lot about bees. We didn't know that all the workers are female.”
Following the presentation, we asked Nathaniel what he likes best about bees. “How drones can't sting,” he said.
Learning about bees is lifelong. “I pass on the information I've learned to the kids,” Haddon said. One of his mentors is beekeeper John Foster of John Foster Bz Bee Pollination Esparto. Garry hopes to take a course from the University of California, Davis soon. “The courses (taught by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño and her group) were already filled when I tried to sign up," he said. "I was on the waiting list. I'm looking forward to the next course offered."
Earlier this year Garry trucked some of his bees to Turlock to pollinate the almonds. He bottles his honey and also produces honey sticks.
He has not always been enamored with bees. “When I was in high school, I thought bees were pests,” Garry acknowledged.
Not any more. He considers bees a treasure.
Lately the 4-H beekeeping leader has been showing his project members how to build hives, and he encourages them to decorate their own hive, "to make it their own." Three 4-H'ers, Ashlyn Haddon, Adrianna Haddon and Hallee Winchell, displayed their decorated hives at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day.
4-H Youth Development Program
The 4-H Youth Development Program is a non-profit youth educational program administered through the UC Cooperative Extension. In 4-H, youths from ages 5 to 19 learn skills through hands-on learning and have fun doing it, said Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H program representative. The international organization draws youth from all ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds who live in rural, suburban, and urban communities. The four H's in 4-H stand for head, heart, hands, and health. The motto: "To make the best better."
Age-appropriate projects within each club are the heart of 4-H's hands-on learning. Each project focuses on a topic, anything from A (art) to Z (zoology). Among the many projects: animal sciences, bicycling, camping, computers, drama, entomology, leadership, music, photography, quilting, rocketry, textile arts, and woodworking.
UC Davis Beekeeping Courses
- Beekeeping Courses. To get on the list for UC Davis-offered beekeeping courses, send an email to email@example.com from the address you want to subscribe to the list and in the subject line of your message, type in: subscribe elninobeelabclasses Firstname Lastname
- Master Beekeeping Courses. To get on the list for the newly created UC Davis Master Beekeeper Program, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from the address you want to subscribe to the list and in the subject line of your message, type in: subscribe camasterbee Firstname Lastname
For more information on UC Davis beekeeping courses, contact the E.L. Nino lab at 530-380-BUZZ (2899) or access the website at http://elninobeelab.ucdavis.edu/ and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/elninolab.