And the yellow.
On a camping trip last week to Doran Regional Park, Bodega Bay, we admired our neighbors' display of American flags—bordered with a dozen honey bees.
These bees, however, didn't buzz. They spun.
The colorful yellow, black and white mobiles attacked the wind like fierce little windmills, livening up the campground.
“Are you beekeepers?” I asked the neighbor.
“No,” she replied. “We just like bees.”
So did George Washington (1732-1799), the founding father of our country.
Mount Vernon research historian Mary Thompson notes that George Washington was the first U.S. president to keep bees. In Washingtonpapers.org, she writes that his "indentured English joiner," Matthew Baldridge, received 300 nails at the Circle Storehouse on July 28, 1787 "to make a bee house."
"Two days later, Matthew received another 200 nails for the same project," Thompson notes. "In addition to getting honey from his own bees, George Washington is known to have purchased honey, as well as other foodstuffs such as chickens, eggs, vegetables, and fruit from his slaves. Honey, for example, was acquired at various times from Nat (a blacksmith); Davy, who was an enslaved overseer;and carpenters Sambo an Isaac, indicating that they, too, probably kept bees."
Thompson says President Washington also liked cake spread with honey and butter: "A visitor from Poland reported that Washington had “tea and caks (sic) made from maize; because of his teeth he makes slices spread with butter and honey….”
And, according to step-granddaughter Nelly Custis, Washington "ate three small mush cakes (Indian meal) swimming in butter and honey," and "drank three cups of tea without cream."
The founding father also liked gifts of honey. Knowing his fondness for honey, sister Betty Washington Lewis gifted him with a "large Pot of very fine in the Comb," when the president was recovering from a serious illness.
The Mount Vernon research historian also relates: "At the close of Washington's presidency eight years later, among the many things the family packed to ship back to Mount Vernon from Philadelphia was 'one demijohn with honey.' A demijohn was a very large glass bottle, covered with wickerwork."
Honey for the hoecakes, hoecakes swimming in honey...
It's World Bee Day!
How did that come about?
One word: Slovenia.
The Republic of Slovenia, rich in beekeeping history, asked the United Nations to proclaim an annual World Bee Day, and following a three-year international effort, the United Nations agreed to do so in December 2017.
So May 20 is the annual World Bee Day.
"Slovenia LOVES bees and beekeeping and it seems like California does, too!" says Wendy Mather, program manager of the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP). "There are 72 Apprentice Assistant and 93 Apprentice level candidates vying for their CAMBP certification this year! The '22 season is buzzing."
Mather points out: "World Bee Day is a confirmation that we humans respect and appreciate our dependence on one of our favorite generalist pollinators, the honey bee, for a healthy, diverse diet. Bee health equals human health and we thank all our CAMBP volunteers for their service to humanity in helping to raise awareness of the importance of bee health and science-based beekeeping. Our members are honey bee ambassadors and are committed to environmental stewardship."
Cooperative Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is the founding director of CAMBP. The organization has disseminated science-based beekeeping information through a network of trained volunteers since 2016.
CAMBP's vision is "to train Apprentice, Journey and Master level beekeepers so they can effectively communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators within their communities, serve as mentors for other beekeepers, and become the informational conduit between the beekeeping communities throughout the state and UCCE staff," according to its website.
Beekeepers and prospective beekeepers can sign up for classes, which run from February through October. Upcoming classes (many online but some in person)
- Honey Bee Health, May 21
- All About Varroa, June 4
- Queen Rearing Basics, June 11
- Pesticides, Colony Collapse Disorder, Research and Hope, June 18
- Wax Working, Honey and Hive Products, July 9
- Advanced Anatomy and Physiology of the Honey Bee, Aug. 13
- Seasonal Honey Bee Colony Management in Southern California, Sept. 17
- Broodminder: Apiary Technology and Honey Bee Health, Oct. 15
- Exploring Beekeeping in Person at the South Coast Research and Extension Center, Irvine, Oct. 22
That's it for the 2022 classes. In addition, there's an "Introduction to Mead" class offered Nov. 5. Mead or honey wine, is the world's oldest alcoholic beverage.
Let's hear it for the bees!
They came to taste the honey, learn about the importance of honey bees, check out the bee observation hives, and to engage with beekeepers and merchants.
And to photograph and "bee" photographed with the costumed "Queen Bee" Wendy Mather, program manager of the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program.
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and a co-founder of the California Honey Festival, explained what the honey flavor wheel is and invited the crowd to sample honey varietals.
Harris estimated the crowd at 40,000. "I got laryngitis," she said.
She also is the self-described "Queen Bee" of the Z Specialty Food/The Hive, Woodland. Her son, "nectar director" Josh Zeldner, also greeted the crowd at his booth. (They later hosted an after-party at The Hive.)
Claire Tauzer of Tauzer Apiaries/Sola Bee Farms and her worker bees talked about the wonders of bees, the merits of honey and offered visitors a taste of their honey. They displayed a bee observation hive. (See news story about the Tauzers).
Jer and Ellen Johnson of Uncle Jer's Traveling Bee Show, Elk Grove, entertained the crowd with shows throughout the day. Like the Tauzers, the California Master Beekeeper Program, Mann Lake Bee Supply and others, the Johnsons also showed festival-goers their bee observation hive, pointing out the three castes (queen, workers and drones) and the roles they play.
It was, as they say, a honey of a festival.
The event, launched in 2017, didn't happen in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
But it buzzed back into Woodland last Saturday to a crowd absolutely craving camaraderie...and liquid gold.
Hear that buzz? See those bees? Taste that honey?
The festival, launched in 2017--and by co-founder Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute--aims to inspire "people of all ages to protect and celebrate bees and other pollinators." Admission is free.
"UC Davis will have a slimmed down version this year," said Harris. Some of the events on tap Saturday:
- The UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center will showcase its honey tasting wheel and offer free honey tasting.
- The California Master Beekeeper Program will staff two educational booths. Visitors can examine a bee observation hive, check out the beekeeping equipment and peer through microscopes. Kids' activities are also planned.
- The Bohart Museum of Entomology of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematolgoy will showcase bee diversity in its specimen drawers. Its live "petting zoo" will include Madagascar hissing cockroaches and stick insects (walking sticks) that folks can hold, said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
- The UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden will address pollinator needs and gardening.
- The Woodland Public Library will offer a children's reading hour.
- Uncle Jer's Traveling Bee Show will provide educational performances.
- The UC Davis Bookstores booth will contain honey, books, and other gifts for sale.
- Visitors can don a bee costume and get their picture taken in the UC Davis Pollination Park, a collaboration with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
Harris said the festival will include live music, a beer and mead garden. Some 100 vendors will sell everything from food to plants to arts and crafts. The first festival drew some 30,000 visitors.
An after-party is planned at The Hive, part of Z Specialty Food, Woodland. Harris, the "Queen Bee" of Z Specialty Food, said advance registration is required. Access https://zspecialtyfood.com/event/california-honey-festival-after-party/.
Now another "pride" awaits.
Z Specialty Food will host a Nature Day celebration, a free public event from 11 a.m., to 5 p.m., Saturday, April 2.
The 20,000-square-foot facility, which houses the Moon Shine Trading Company, Island of the Moon Apiaries, and The Hive, includes a processing plant, a tasting room (honey and mead), a gift shop, an outdoor courtyard and a pollinator garden. As the largest honey varietal business in California, it is the pride of all folks eager to say: "Show me the honey!"
And now on Saturday, April 2, during the Nature Day celebration, you'll see the pride of The Hive.
What's on tap for Nature Day?
Don't Toss Those Scraps! – Natural Dye Workshop
Time: All day
Learn how to utilize food scraps and create one-of-a-kind dyes for clothing, fabric and yarn. You'll be provided white cloth, avocado pits and black beans. What's with food waste? Each year Americans waste 108 billion pounds of food, contributing to extensive environmental, economic, and societal impacts.
Miridae Living Labs
Time: All day
You'll get to play with seed bombs, bugs, and plants with Miridae Living Labs! This is a non-profit, Sacramento-area organization dedicated to using native insects and plants as tools for education, research, and community engagement. The business "strives to generate positive ecological changes in our communities under the guidance and leadership of community members," a spokesperson said.
Noon: Container Gardening with California Native Plants (first-come, first-serve basis with purchase of plant)
Miridae Mobile Nursery is a customized box truck that transforms into a curbside native plant shop. Its goal is "to bring people together through plants and gardening." All profits from its sales of native plants support its science education, non-profit Miridae Living Labs.
The Hive Nature Loop Scavenger Hunt
Time: All Day
You can grab a pamphlet and go on a scavenger hunt for plants in The Hive Nature Loop. Find all the plants and show to a team member to win a prize!
Pollinator Garden Tour
Time: 1 p.m.
Join plant curator Rowan Boswell for a tour of the two-acre pollinator gardens at The Hive. It's billed as: "Get inspired by our oasis and outdoor courtyard, designed to meet the needs of our community and native species. Discover pollinator favorites, California natives, and drought-tolerant plants."
Bohart Museum of Entomology
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis will display specimens of bees. The insect museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, is the home of a global collection of eight million insect specimens; a live "petting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas); and a gift shop.
Some 24 images of honey bees by award-winning photographer Kathy Keatley Garvey of UC Davis will be showcased. A communication specialist for the Department of Entomology and Nematology who takes images of honey bees and other pollinators in her leisure time, she comes from a long line of beekeepers. She writes a daily (Monday-Friday) Bug Squad blog.
The Hive Facility Tour
Times: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Visitors are invited to tour the four-year development, created to educate the public on honey, bees, and pollination. Nectar director Josh Zeldner will guide the tours of 20,000-square-foot, Zero Net Energy facility.
Z Specialty Food began as the Moon Shine Trading Company, founded in 1979 by Ishai Zeldner (1947-2018), who died at age 71. He worked as a commercial beekeeper and studied beekeeping at UC Davis. He became fond of yellow starthistle honey. "He loved it so much that he began giving it away to his friends, and quickly realized he was going broke doing so," remembers his widow, Amina Harris, the director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. Her title at the family business? "Queen Bee." Son Josh Zeldner is the "nectar director." Liz Luu is the marketing manager and tasting room manager, or a "worker bee."
Honey enthusiasts all, they and their crew will greet the public on Nature Day, April 2. The bees will be there, too, foraging on the Pride of Madeira.