Or you may have seen her volunteering at the annual California Honey Bee Festival in Woodland, an all-day program co-sponsored by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Or you may have seen her volunteering at the UC Davis Pollinator Education Program at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
But if you enroll in the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP) at UC Davis, you definitely will see her—and know her as Wendy Mather, the program manager.
CAMBP, based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, educates stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping.
Members of the program serve as knowledgeable ambassadors who disseminate science-based information about the importance of honey bees, preserving bee health, and responsible beekeeping, Niño said.
Mather succeeds founding CAMBP manager Bernardo Niño, who now heads bee research and development at UBEES Inc. He continues to works with CAMBP as its educational advisor.
“CAMBP is designed for beekeeping at the urban and homesteader levels, and small hobbyists,” Mather said. “We work with beekeepers and bee clubs throughout the state to ensure an ongoing interest in keeping bees healthy.”
In 2016, 56 participants successfully passed the Apprentice Level exams and became Master Beekeepers in the Class of 2016. In 2017, 40 more joined them. Next on tap is the Apprentice Level exam for the Class of 2018. The prospective members, who all pre-registered earlier this year, will participate in the CAMBP Apprentice Exam Review on Saturday, Sept. 15, with the exam set on Sunday, Sept.15. Both will take place in the Laidlaw facility on Bee Biology Road.
Mather, an El Dorado Hills resident, has been keeping bees since 2007. “I learned from the Tech Transfer Team at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, on the job from my former boss at Nature's Own Design (NOD) Apiary Products, the manufacturer of Mite Away Quick Strips, and from the many customers I have had the honor of working with in the field.” While at NOD, she also served on the Honey Bee Health Coalition. She holds a Journeyman Beekeeper Certification from the University of Montana.
Born and raised in Montreal, Wendy moved to the Toronto area in her late teens. “I've always loved bees,” she said. “I've always loved watching bees forage, but I never imagined becoming a beekeeper! I was invited to cover a leave of absence for a position that required some apiculture knowledge, and was given a couple of hives to 'bring me up to speed'! I've been keeping bees ever since.”
Active in eight beekeeping or bee-affiliated associations, Mather is a member of CSBA, Delta Beekeepers, Sacramento Area Beekeepers, Nevada City Beekeepers, Colorado State Beekeepers, American Beekeepers Federation, American Honey Producers Association and the El Dorado Beekeepers' Association (she is a past secretary).
Beekeeping runs in the family. Wendy and her husband, Darrell, kept an apiary with 24 colonies in Cold Springs, Ontario, Canada before they moved to California. "Darrell and our eldest daughter, Aislyn, and I all took the 'Introduction to Beekeeping' offered through the Tech Transfer Team at the University of Guelph," Wendy said. "Darrell and I took that course twice. Darrell has successfully raised queens, too!" The couple and their three daughters participated in the extraction, packing and labeling. "Extraction weekend was also a great time for the extended family to gather and enjoy fun times together during the sweet harvest," Wendy recalled.
California Master Beekeeper Program Grant
"Honey bees are arguably the most important managed pollinator and are used as the primary pollinator for over 30 crops in California many of which are considered specialty crops such as almonds," wrote Niño in her successful grant application. "Therefore, the food security of our state and our nation depends largely on robust and healthy honey bee populations. However, in recent years, U.S. beekeepers have been reporting annual colony losses of up to 45 percent. These losses are attributed to many pathogens and pests associated with bees, as well as pesticide exposure and lack of access to plentiful and diverse forage."
"Colony losses have also prompted those who have never kept bees before to try their hand at beekeeping in an effort to help honey bee conservation," Niño pointed out. "Currently, in California there are an estimated 11,000 backyard and small-scale beekeepers, with many of them belonging to one of 35 beekeeper associations within the state. While these associations often serve as hubs of information transfer, the information provided is not always accurate or supported by research findings. Considering the importance of California to the US agriculture and the fact that almost 80 percent of the U.S. colonies start their pollination and honey production routes in almonds, it is clear that there is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive, science-based, and state-wide apiculture curriculum."
The statewide funding that CAMBP received will enable the program to
- expand to the intermediate and advanced levels of the curriculum
- create partnerships with advisers in UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) offices throughout the state (UC Davis currently has collaborators in Fresno and San Diego);
- begin creating comprehensive web-based resources such as a library of online materials including an online classroom; and
- support the expansion of the program's educational apiary.
Those interested in enrolling in the California Master Beekeeper Program can find more information about the Apprentice Level at https://cambp.ucdavis.edu/levels/apprentice.
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the University of California, Davis, and her lab have announced a series of short courses for the new year--and folks can register now and/or purchase gift certificates. All will take place at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis campus, beginning Saturday, March 24, with the last course ending June 16.
The schedule and capsule information:
- Planning Ahead for Your First Hives: Saturday, March 24
- Working Your Colonies: Sunday, March 25
- Queen-Rearing Techniques Short Course: Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22 course; Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29 course
- Bee-Breeding Basics: Saturday, June 9
- Varroa Management Strategies: Saturday, June 16
Planning Ahead for Your First Hives: The short course will include lectures and hands-on exercises. This course is perfect for those who have little or no beekeeping experience and would like to obtain more knowledge and practical skills to move on to the next step of owning and caring for their own honey bee colonies.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the March 24 class
Working Your Colonies: Get up close and personal with bees. This course is for novice beekeepers who already have a colony and/or have taken the previous course, and want to develop their beekeeping skills further. Instructors will discuss products of the hive, present a lecture on inspecting your colony, and solve problems with your colony. The afternoon will be spent entirely in the apiary with hands-on activities and demonstrations.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the March 25 class
Queen-Rearing Techniques Short Course: This two-day course will include lectures, hands-on exercises and lots of group discussions. This course is perfect for those who have some beekeeping experience and would like to move on to the next step of rearing their own queens or maybe even trying their luck at bee breeding.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the April 21-22 course
Click here to register for the April 28-April 29 course
Bee-Breeding Basics: This course is an excellent complement to the Queen Rearing Techniques Short Course. During this one-day course, the instructors will talk about the intricacies of honey bee genetics along with honey bee races and breeder lines. An in-depth discussion of various breeding schemes will take place.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the June 9 class
Varroa Management Strategies: Current beekeeping challenges call for all beekeepers to have a solid understanding of varroa mite biology and management approaches. The instructors will dive deeper into understanding varroa biology and will devote a majority of the time to discussing pros and cons of various means to monitor, mitigate, and manage this crucial honey bee pest.
Click here for more information
Click here to register for the June 16 class
The Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is located at 1 Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. It is named for former UC Davis professor Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr., the father of honey bee genetics.
UC Davis bee scientists conduct the California Master Beekeeper Courses and just received a $199,949 grant from the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources 2017 Competitive Grants Program. Elina Niño is the principal investigator. UC ANR is funding 10 projects for a total of $1.7 million over a five-year period. View project summary of California Master Beekeeper Grant/span>
As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, he enrolled in an introductory entomology class. “I remember seeing the research technician standing in and indoor flight cage, surrounded by bees,” Nye said. “They were flying from the hive to a feeder stand and completely ignoring her. We covered the long history of beekeeping in that class around that same time and I was just amazed at how much knowledge had been collected. I applied for a job and started working as an assistant to the research technician I saw that day that spring. I spent the next three summers working for the lab of Dr. Gene Robinson and learning as much as I could.”
He went on to spend eight years in Illinois working with the bees—three as an undergraduate assistant and five years as the facility manager and research technician. He joined UC Davis in December 2015.
“Adapting to the California ecosystem has been a bit of an adjustment,” Nye said. “A big part of beekeeping is understanding the ecosystem you live in. If you've got a bee yard that doesn't have a water source close, you may need to move water in during dry periods. Different flowers provide nectar and pollen at varying quantities, so being aware of what's going on in the environment can give you some insight into whether or not you might need to assist your bees with some sugar to make it until the next bloom. That has honestly been my favorite part of moving here, learning about all the trees and shrubs and wildflowers and when they bloom. It's a constant process through the year, and being my first year here it's been really enjoyable to watch the seasons progress."
Nye welcomes the worldwide interest in bees and the crucial role they play. “I think people are starting to understand the complex role bees play in our food system, and I hope in the future we could help educate people about how the agricultural system is helped by natural areas,” he said. “Here in the Central Valley, there is very little unused space. We are able to bring in honey bees on trucks from distant areas to pollinate our crops, but it's a very precarious system that we are relying on to make that work. Having some natural corridors for pollinators year round would really help increase the population of native bees, help the health of honey bees, and keep us from worrying about losing the delicate balance we are keeping between honey bees and agricultural production.”
"I think the general public's knowledge of bees has made amazing advances in recent years. The shortage of bees for agricultural purposes here in the Central Valley really brought beekeeping into the news, followed by a lot of documentaries and things that made people want to be beekeepers or at least plant pollinator friendly gardens. Lots of people bring up beekeeping documentaries they've seen, and I don't think beekeepers were experiencing that 20 years ago. Overall, I'm mostly impressed with the amount of bee related knowledge out in the world right now.
Myths and misconceptions about bees? Often people associate bees with stinging, and falsely claim they have an allergy. “I've been doing this long enough that I don't laugh at people when they tell me they are allergic, but I think people don't completely understand what allergic means,” he said. “Only one or two people out of 1000 are actually allergic and have a life threatening reaction--most people just experience pain and swelling. I try to point out to people that when it hurts and makes their hand swell up, that might not mean they have a bee allergy, but most of the time I just nod my head and move on. I worked a booth at a local fair and half my conversations were people telling me they were allergic because it hurt. I get stung every day, and I can attest that at no point does it stop hurting.”
Nye divides his time with the labs of Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, pollination ecologist Neal Williams, and Brian Johnson, who studies the behavior, evolution and genetics of honey bees. “My responsibilities are pretty spread out,” he said. “The majority of my time is spent keeping the bees healthy enough for experiments.” In peak season, “it's pretty common to just have a few weeks' notice that we need any number of healthy full sized colonies, and like other animals, you can't grow a calf to a full sized cow with any magic tricks, so we try to buffer that by keeping a tight schedule for disease monitoring and making sure all our colonies are as robust as possible.”
What does he like the best about his job? The least?
"My job has a great balance between working out in a natural setting going through bee hives, and coming back to the lab and getting involved in research," he said. "I think doing either one of them by themselves would get a little tedious for me, so I feel really lucky to be able to split myself between the two. The least? It might be kind of a strange complaint, but foxtails. I spend a lot of time walking through tall grass and those foxtails burrow into my shoes and make me crazy. And I'm told I have to worry about them going up my dog's nose? I would say it's an urban myth but the seeds ability to get into my shoe and under my sock is practically magic."
(Editor's Note: For a list of the 2017 apiculture courses that the Niño lab is offering and teaching, see this page.)
Participants may register for one or both courses, according to Extension apiculturist Elina Niño, who is coordinating and teaching the courses with Bernardo Niño and colleagues at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Each course will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Laidlaw facility, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The maximum number of participants per course is 25.
Planning Ahead for Your First Hive
The course, “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives,” taught by Elina Niño, Bernardo Niño, Charley Nye and Tricia Bohls, will provide lectures and hands-on exercises. The course is described as “perfect for those who have little or no beekeeping experience and would like to obtain more knowledge and practical skills before moving on to the next step of owning and caring for their own honey bee colonies.”
Lecture modules will cover honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to start your colony, and maladies of the hive. Practical modules will zero in on how to build a hive, install a package, inspect a hive and monitor for varroa mites.
Participants will have the opportunity to learn about and practice many aspects of what is necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving. At the end of the course, participants "will be knowledgeable about installing honey bee packages, monitoring their own colonies and taking on possible challenges with maintaining a healthy colony."
The $95 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch and refreshments.
Working Your Colonies
For the short course, “Working Your Colonies,” instructors are Elina Niño and Bernardo Niño. The course, to include lectures and hands-on exercises, is described as “perfect or those who already have beekeeping experience and would like to obtain more knowledge and practical to move on to the next step of managing and working their own honey bee colonies.”
Lecture modules will include advanced honey bee biology, honey bee integrated pest management and products of the hive. Practical modules will cover queen wrangling, honey extraction, combining colonies, splitting colonies and monitoring for varroa mites. The $150 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch, and refreshments.
For each course, participants are asked to bring a bee suit or veil if they have one (the lab has a limited number). Lodging is not provided. For more information on registering for the short courses, contact Bernardo Niño at email@example.com or (530) 380-BUZZ (2899). See lab's Facebook page.
Bohls, a first-year doctoral student in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, received a $1000 prize. The two-day symposium took place April 7-8 in the UC Davis Conference Center.
Bohls began her presentation, “Efficacy of Several Biopesticides Against Varroa Mites,” with a brief overview of honey bees, discussed their importance and why they are dying, and then turned to her research on mite infestation. She studies with state Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the department's Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Bohls' abstract: "Varroa destructor is an ectoparasitic mite on Apis mellifera; it feeds on hemolymph and vectors several pathogens. The purpose of this efficacy and safety trial was to determine the level of Varroa mite control provided by several biopesticides in a systems approach and to determine the safety to bees and honey yield variables. These experiments were conducted at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Five groups of eight to ten established colonies with infestations of Varroa mites were selected for the experiments. All colonies were contained within the same apiary and began with 2 percent mite levels. Each of the five groups of honey bee colonies were randomly assigned a treatment: positive control, Product A (low and high dose), Product B, untreated control. The level of Varroa mite infestation was determined with an alcohol wash prior to the treatment, three times during, and at the end of the treatment. Effects on colony strength were measured by counting the number of frames of adult bees, brood, honey, and pollen before, during, and after the treatment."
A native of Macedonia, Ohio, Bohls joined the UC Davis doctoral program last fall. She is involved with public outreach and extension in the Niño lab, assisting with beekeeping workshops and short courses. She recently delivered a presentation to the American Honey Producers' Association convention.
Bohls received her bachelor's degree from Hiram (Ohio) College in May 2015, double-majoring in neuroscience and environmental studies and minoring in biology. In independent studies at Hiram, she conducted a wasp survey at the James H. Barrow Field Station, comparing wasp diversity in newer vs. older growth forests. She also served as a research assistant with Thomas Koehnle at the field station where she studied eastern gray squirrels with a variety of population sampling procedures, including home range studies, time area counts, and transects. She conducted an anti-predator behavior study on the eastern gray squirrel, extensively comparing the behavior of the two color morphs of the eastern gray squirrel.
In addition, Bohls developed a citizen science butterfly program at the field station. As a research assistant, Bohls worked on a butterfly population study at the field station's Monarch Waystation, comparing the population and species differences of butterflies in a field before and after a controlled burn.