For "outstanding achievements and notable contributions in disseminating science-based beekeeping information since 2016,” the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP) won a 2023 UC Davis Staff Assembly “Citation of Excellence” and praise from Chancellor Gary May.
CAMBP director and founder Elina Lastro Niño, associate professor of Cooperative Extension and a member of UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty, and co-program manager Wendy Mather share the Faculty-Staff Partnership Award.
Niño, UC Extension apiculturist since 2014, founded CAMBP in 2016. Mather joined the program in March of 2018. Also integral to the program is Kian Nikzad, but as a newer employee, was ineligible to be nominated.
The awards ceremony, held Sept. 12 in the International Center on campus, singled out “some of our most exceptional UC Davis individuals and teams,” Chancellor May said in his presentation.
Nikzad accepted the award on behalf of Niño, who was participating in Apimondia in Santiago, Chile, conferring with colleagues at the UC Davis Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center, a part of UC Davis Global Affairs. She was assisting them in developing a sustainable and environmentally friendly science-based beekeeping program to support the success of farmers and beekeepers at all economic levels.
“I truly appreciate everything you do on a daily basis to make UC Davis a wonderful place,” the chancellor said. “You are the heart of UC Davis and I'm grateful for your dedication and hard work...you “contribute to our university's success and make UC Davis a more enjoyable, creative, inclusive and invigorating place to work.”
Nomination. Nominators of "The Bee Team" lauded Niño and Mather for providing a “program of learning, teaching, research, and public service, goes above and beyond in delivering comprehensive, science-based information about honey bees and honey bee health. They continually and consistently develop, improve, and refine their statewide curriculum that educates stewards in a train-the-trainer program to disseminate accurate, timely, and crucial information. Honey bees pollinate more than 30 California crops, including almonds, a $5 billion industry (no bees, no pollination, no almonds). Indeed, California produces more than a third of our country's vegetables and three-quarters of our fruits and nuts. However, colony losses are alarming due to pesticides, pests, predators and pathogens.”
As of Sept. 15, 2023, CAMBP has donated 34,000 hours of volunteer time and served 209,000 individuals in education, outreach and beekeeping mentorship. If a volunteer hour were to be calculated at $26.87, CAMBP has given $913,580 back to California in service of science-based beekeeping and honey bee health.
Scholarships. “No money?” wrote the nominators (Kathy Keatley Garvey, Nora Orozco and Tabatha Yang from the Department of Entomology and Nematology). “No problem. (CAMBP) has donated 12 scholarships, worth $250 each; helped novices who can't afford mentoring or equipment by linking them with veteran beekeepers; and is engaging in free bee removals--rescuing and relocating bees.”
Over the past year, CAMBP has developed and expanded its educational materials. This includes launching an asynchronous online course and in-person preparatory programs with its partners. It is updating safety materials and developing an Epinephrine auto-injector/CPR course, geared toward “everyone from 4-H beekeepers to novice beekeepers to the general public,” the nominators wrote.
CAMBP also teaches “schoolchildren about bees at specially guided garden tours at UC Davis, inspiring them “to care for the bees and plant nectar and pollen resources.”
Its website, accessible to the public, offers a list of classes and knowledge-based information, including backyard beekeeping, bees in the neighborhood, bees and beekeeping regulations, defensive bees, live honey bee removals, and protecting pollinators.
“Bottom line,” the nominators concluded, “our ‘B' Team is really an ‘A' Team, an outstanding example of UC Davis teaching, research and service; a team providing exemplary service and contributions; and a team that creates and maintains high morale and embodies the Principles of Community.”
Joint Statement. In a joint statement following the awards ceremony, Mather and Nikzad said: “We share this award with our passionate and caring member volunteers. Our members are deeply committed to honey bee health, science-based beekeeping practices, and, most importantly, to each other. Their enthusiasm and dedication drive our mission forward. We wish to acknowledge Elina Niño for her visionary leadership; she has brought together various stakeholders, including growers, bee breeders, commercial, sideline, and hobbyist beekeepers, as well as the general public, through CAMBP, UC Davis, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) and UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE). We missed having her at the ceremony.”
At the Staff Assembly ceremony, one other team received a Faculty-Staff Partnership Award Excellence Award: the Graduate Mentoring Initiative, comprised of Ambarish Kulkarni, faculty, Department of Chemical Engineering; Pamela Lein, faculty, Department of Molecular Bioscience; and Elizabeth Sturdy, staff, director of the Mentoring and Academic Success Initiative, Graduate Studies.
Serving as co-chairs of the 2023 Citations of Excellence Committee were Darolyn Striley, manager of the Office of Student Development, School of Medicine, and Mary Carrillo, business operations manager, Languages and Literatures.
Staff Assembly sponsors the annual Citations of Excellence awards program to provide recognition for UC Davis and UC Davis Health individual staff and staff teams “who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in one of the following areas: teaching, research, service, innovation, supervision, mentorship, team awards and faculty/staff partnership award.”
“It was about how to cook with honey and how to keep good quality honey without destroying it,” she related. “Then I took my real retirement trip—an Alaskan cruise with my sister.”
Today Amina Harris is no longer the "queen bee” of the Honey and Pollination Center but she continues to be the “queen bee” of the family-owned, family-operated gourmet food business, Z Specialty Food LLC, Woodland, that her late husband, Ishai Zeldner founded in 1979.
Accolades about her work flow like the honey she loves. "Amina has been key to promoting and developing regional and national interest in honey and mead,“ said nematologist Steve Nadler, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Her accomplishments include:
- Founded the Center in the fall of 2012 and served as the founding director until June 30, 2023
- Co-founder of the California Honey Festival with the City of Woodland and Z Specialty Food, 2016
- Developed the UC Davis Honey Aroma and Flavor Wheel, 2013-14
- Offered several UC Davis Bee Symposia in concert with the Department of Entomology and Nematology to help educate California beekeepers at all levels, starting in 2015
- Established “The Feast: A Celebration with Mead and Honey,” formerly known as “The Mid-Winter Beekeepers' Feast,” pairing food influenced by honey, starting in 2014
- Helped develop and fund the California Master Beekeeper Program (which replaced the Bee Symposia), 2016
- Developed, with the UC Davis Department of Viticulture, the first short course on mead, 2014. Subsequent short courses ranged from “Introduction to Making Mead” to “Advanced Mead Making.”
- Developed the Honey Exploration Series, which began in 2016 and included both a professional focus (“Honey Sensory”) and a public focus (“World of Honey”).
- Delivered presentations at various programs and events throughout the United States and Canada from 2012 to 2023.
“It has been a great pleasure to collaborate with Amina as she always brought a fresh perspective to pollinator education discussions," Niño added. "We will miss her in her capacity as the HPC director, but I am sure that we will continue to interact in the future and utilize her expansive knowledge of all things honey!"
Said Wendy Mather, co-program manager of CAMBP: “Whenever I've needed assistance with about anything honey-related, Amina has generously offered her time and wisdom. She has served on the CAMBP Advisory Board since the program's inception in 2016. Her experience and wisdom are valued as she continues to offer excellent programmatic design suggestions to help strengthen our staff-member communication. Amina was also instrumental in designing, hosting and facilitating an introduction and overview to honey, honey processing and honey tasting. And she connected us to Suzanne Teuber, a UC Davis physician and professor specializing in allergy and clinical immunologic disorders so we could learn more about the science behind anaphylactic responses to bee stings.”
Energy of a Worker Bee. “We also couldn't have asked for a better partner to set up beside at the California Honey Festival over the past few years!” Mather said. “The Honey Wheel tasting table draws crowds curious about exploring the sensory elements of honey and our adjacent CAMBP booth benefits from that sweet attraction. If you've even seen Amina in action, you'll know she has the purposeful energy of a worker bee.”
Amina, born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y, received her undergraduate degrees--double major in English and the history of art--from the University of Michigan and her graduate degree in special education from Buffalo State College. She met beekeeper/entrepreneur Ishai Zeldner, also a native of Buffalo, in Yolo County. They married in 1982 and together they raised their two children, Shoshana “Shoshi” and Joshua.
Ishai and Amina created a line of internationally recognized award-winning specialty food products, including the Moon Shine Trading Company. They began providing more than 30 honey varietals, including star thistle honey, the first honey to capture Ishai's imagination and palate.
A Dream Fulfilled. Ishai, who died in 2018 at age 71, always dreamed of expanding the family business from a processing plant into what it is today, a 20,000-square-foot facility that includes The HIVE tasting room for honey and mead, a gift shop, a kitchen featuring sustainable pollinator-themed dishes, a conference room, an outdoor courtyard and a two-acre pollinator garden.
The facility, which opened in 2021, houses Moon Apiaries and the Moon Shine Trading Company, as well as The HIVE. Located at 1221 Harter Way, Woodland, it is described as a sustainable educational learning center; a landmark community gathering spot featuring honey, mead, and sustainable pollinator-themed dishes; and a place that offers the largest selection of honey and mead in California. Ishai's bee boxes grace a wall of the tasting room.
“We, our family, are all the co-owners of this venture,” Amina says. Josh describes himself as “the nectar director”; Amina, “the queen bee”; and Shoshi, the marketing director.
How It Began. What sparked Amina's interest in honey? Creating honey-influenced recipes. “Back in 1970s when everyone was getting into whole foods, I wanted to create more holistic recipes, so I started making jams and jellies and pies, adding honey for the sweetener instead of sugar. I was making pies for families when I was in the seventh grade! Honey selection was not good in New York State, and I didn't know the science then.”
Bees continue to fascinate her. “People have no idea how emotionally attached we are to bees. There's this huge, wonderful group of people who just love bees because they're so cute and endearing. But we need to be more curious and inquisitive as to how wonderful bees are, and how they benefit us as pollinators. And the honey. We should appreciate bees more than we do.”
Meanwhile, Amina's family, friends and colleagues are gearing up for an August retirement party, to be held at The HIVE.
"I think, all in all, the festival was a success despite the weather which is out of our control, especially when the forecasts were off by so much," said vendor coordinator/events specialist Jordan Waldron. "I heard no complaints from attendees; I even saw some just enjoying the rain."
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center and a co-founder of the festival agreed with the crowd estimate. "They braved the rain, thunder, lightning and hail!"
The California Honey Festival, launched in 2017 to celebrate the importance of bees and to promote honey and honey bees and their products, last year drew a crowd of 40,000.
"Overall, great job by all this year," Waldron reiterated, in thanking Harris and GATEways Horticulturist Rachel Davis of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden in coordinating the UC Davis Speakers' Stage. Harris also staffed a educational booth offering honey tasting. The Arboretum also provided one of the scores of booths that lined the streets.
The UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), founded in 2016 by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, participated en force, staffing an information booth and an arts and crafts table. CAMPB, focused on learning, teaching, research, and public service, offers comprehensive, science-based information about honey bees and honey bee health.
A special guest was National Honey Bee Queen Selena Rampolla of Tampa, Fla., who is also a beekeeper. Crowned the honey bee queen at the American Beekeeping Federation Conference and Tradeshow earlier this year, she received a bachelor's degree in psychology, summa cum laude, from the University of South Florida in 2022. Rampolla, who developed her interest in honey bees in high school--and a subsequent beekeeping course convinced her to pursue the hobby--marvels at the "amazing symbiotic relationship between the honeybee, a flower, and society."
Another highlight of the festival: The UC Davis Speakers' Stage. Speakers addressed the crowds from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.:
- Pollination ecologist and professor Neal Williams, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, discussing "Pollination, the Importance of Native Bees and How to Promote Them"
Kitty Bolte, GATEways horticulturist, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, "Planting Your Garden to be a Welcoming Space for Pollinators"
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, and co-owner of Z Food Specialty and The HIVE, Woodland, "Let's Learn to Taste Honey."
Wendy Mather, co-program manager of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB), "So, You Want to Be a Beekeeper?"
Jean-Philippe Marelli, senior director of Integrated Pest Management for Mars Wrigley Confectionery (also a journey level master beekeeper and Melipona beekeeper in Brazil), "Stingless Bees: The Amazing World of Melipona Bees"
Cooperative Extension apiculturist/associate professor Elina Lastro Niño of Entomology and Nematology, and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB), "What Our Bee Research Is Teaching Us."
Sanmu "Samtso" Caoji, a 2022-23 Hubert Humphrey fellow, and founder of the Shangri-la Gyalthang Academy, and CEO of the Cultural Information Consulting Company, "Empowering Women to Become Beekeepers and Bread Winners for Their Families While Keeping Bees in the Wild"
Rachel Davis, coordinator of Bee City USA Woodland and chair of Bee Campus USA UC Davis (GATEways Horticulturist for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden), "Woodland Is a Bee City; UC Davis Is a Bee City--What This Means to Our Communities"
The 2024 California Honey Festival is set for May 4.
The event, launched in 2017 to celebrate the importance of bees and to promote honey and honey bees and their products, last year drew a crowd of 40,000. It's free and family friendly.
Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, Robert Mondavi Institute, and a co-founder of the festival, announced the list of speakers who will deliver 20-minute talks on the Speakers' Stage, located just west of First Street.
10:30 a.m.: Pollination ecologist and professor Neal Williams, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who will discuss "Pollination, the Importance of Native Bees and How to Promote Them"
11 a.m.: Kitty Bolte, GATEways horticulturist, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, "Planting Your Garden to be a Welcoming Space for Pollinators"
12 noon: Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, and co-owner of Z Food Specialty and The HIVE, Woodland, "Let's Learn to Taste Honey."
1 p.m.: Wendy Mather, co-program manager of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB), "So, You Want to Be a Beekeeper?"
1:30 p.m.: Jean-Philippe Marelli, senior director of Integrated Pest Management for Mars Wrigley Confectionery (also a journey level master beekeeper and Melipona beekeeper in Brazil), "Stingless Bees: The Amazing World of Melipona Bees"
2 p.m.: Cooperative Extension apiculturist/associate professor Elina Lastro Niño of Entomology and Nematology, and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB), "What Our Bee Research Is Teaching Us."
2:30 p.m.: Sanmu "Samtso" Caoji, a 2022-23 Hubert Humphrey fellow, and founder of the Shangri-la Gyalthang Academy, and CEO of the Cultural Information Consulting Company, "Empowering Women to Become Beekeepers and Bread Winners for Their Families While Keeping Bees in the Wild"
3 p.m.: Rachel Davis, coordinator of Bee City USA Woodland and chair of Bee Campus USA UC Davis (GATEways Horticulturist for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden), "Woodland Is a Bee City; UC Davis Is a Bee City--What This Means to Our Communities"
UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology communications specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey will provide a background slide show of honey bees and native bees.
The event is both educational and entertaining. Attendees can taste honey, check out the bee observation hives, watch cooking demonstrations and kids' shows, taste mead and other alcoholic drinks (if of age) and learn about bees from beekeepers and bee scientists. Vendors, offering various products and food, will line the streets.
The UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program, founded in 2016 by Niño, provides a program of learning, teaching, research, and public service. They offer comprehensive, science-based information about honey bees and honey bee health. Since 2016, the organization has donated 32,000 hours of volunteer time and served 186,630 individuals in education, outreach and beekeeping mentorship. Read more about their classes and their work on their website.
An after-party will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at The HIVE Tasting Room and Kitchen, 1221 Harter Ave., Woodland. It will feature pollinator-inspired food, drinks, and dancing to the music of Joy and Madness, an 8-piece soul and funk group. Tickets are $20 and will benefit the California Master Beekeeper Program. "Each ticket includes entry to win a bountiful Yolo County food and drink basket (value $500)," Harris said. More information is on this website.
The UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB) offers training for an "apprentice assistant," described as “the perfect science-based introduction to everything you need to keep safe, healthy bees.”
Apprentice assistant is the first level of the trainer programs offered by CAMPB, launched and directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Other levels are apprentice, journey and master.
“We had 68 applicants in 2021 for the apprentice assistant class,” said Wendy Mather, program director of CAMPB. “Applications for 2022 will open Nov. 30, 2021.”
Applicants will fill out a form, review the Apprentice Assistant Study Guide and take an online written test, scoring at least 80 percent; complete an online beekeeping course (30 minutes); and learn about bee health at https://bee-health.extension.org/biology-of-individual-honey-bees/. They also must pass a practical test (20 minutes) at one of the CAMPB locations--Davis, San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles--and score at least 80 percent on the safety class.
The written test involves identifying beekeeping tools and equipment, such as the smoker and hive tool. The practical test involves:
- Describing the parts of the hive
- Lighting and using a smoker
- Recognizing the stages of brood (workers, drone and queen cells)
- Recognizing the different castes of bees
- Finding or describing the queen
- Differentiating between brood, pollen, nectar, and honey
- Recognizing propolis and describing its function
- Describing the layout of a brood nest (“the perfect frame”, placement of honey, pollen and brood)
The cost to enroll in the class is $50. At the onset, students will receive links to three live, online study halls, facilitated by CAMBP staff, to meet other new beekeepers and ask questions in preparation for the tests, which will be administered in person or virtually via Zoom (depending on COVID-19 restrictions.)
The class officially starts in March, Mather said, with final exams scheduled for September. Students must score at least 80 percent to become an official apprentice assistant. They then will have access to the CAMBP member network; webinars and CAMPB member news. And if they wish, they can apply for the next level, apprentice.
"One cool factor about apprentice assistant is if you decide that beekeeping isn't for you, you still get a certificate stating you've passed the 'theory' portion of the course if you choose only to write the online exam and satisfy your curiosity about humanity's only sweet treat purveying insect," Mather said. "It's not mandatory to get into a hive."
CAMBP requires 10 hours of volunteer service and 12 hours of continuing education each year so members can maintain and expand their beekeeping knowledge and skills. Some apprentice assistants, for example, may decide to hold an office in a beekeeping club; teach 4-H'ers how to keep bees; or assist commercial beekeepers in their operations.