UC Davis abuzz with public support, new garden to help ailing honey bees
A partnership between UC Davis scientists and ice-cream maker Häagen-Dazs is bringing new hope — and new facilities — for beleaguered honey bees.
In February, a Sausalito team submitted the winning design for a new honey-bee garden adjacent to the campus’ Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Work is scheduled to begin on the project this summer, with a ribbon cutting planned for October. An open house for the public is scheduled for spring 2010 when the garden will have its first bloom.
Häagen-Dazs committed $125,000 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology to establish the garden. The key goals of the garden are to provide bees with a year-round food source, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
The garden design, created by landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard, and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki, is posted on the Department of Entomology’s website.
“We’ll not only be providing a pollen and nectar source for the millions of bees on campus, but we will also be demonstrating the beauty and value of pollinator gardens,” said design competition coordinator Melissa “Missy” Borel, program manager for UC Davis’ California Center for Urban Horticulture. “My hope is that it will inspire everyone to plant for pollinators.”
“The winning design fits beautifully with the campus mission of education and outreach, and it will tremendously benefit our honey bees at Bee Biology,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor, entomology department chair, and director of the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology. “The garden will be a campus destination.”
The project features interconnected gardens with catchy names such as Honeycomb Hideout, Nectar Nook, and Pollinator Patch. The design includes a learning center building and paths labeled Orchard Alley, Save the Bee Sanctuary, Round Dance Circle, and Waggle Dance Way. Identification labels will help visitors know more about the plants, or what they can plant in their own yards.
Honey bees pollinate more than 100 different U.S. agricultural crops, valued at $15 billion. They are especially important in California agriculture because of the many fruit and vegetable crops that require pollination. In recent years, the nation’s beekeepers have reported losing from one-third to all of their bees due to a mysterious phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder.
In response, the Häagen-Dazs brand launched the "Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees" campaign in February 2008, committing a total $500,000 donation for bee research to UC Davis and the Pennsylvania State University. It also formed a scientific advisory Bee Board, created an educational website, and introduced the Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream flavor. Häagen-Dazs estimates that bees are crucial to nearly 50 percent of its flavors.
Diane McIntyre with Häagen-Dazs said the company’s campaign generated a great deal of interest from the public, which helped the brand surpass its goal of distributing one million bee-friendly wildflower seeds to community groups and individuals across the United States in an effort to provide additional nutrition for honey bees.
The public has also responded generously with private contributions to support UC Davis honey bee research. In the last year, the public donated nearly $50,000 to the Department of Entomology to support additional honey-bee research at UC Davis. This includes contributions from companies that donated a portion of their proceeds to UC Davis honey-bee research and a number of children who have expressed their concern for bees through fundraisers (see sidebar).
“These grassroots efforts supporting honey bees are very encouraging,” said Jan Kingsbury, a development officer with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis. “People see that colony collapse — and the other challenges affecting the nation’s honey bees — is a potential catastrophe and they are taking it upon themselves to do something: raise money, raise awareness, or plant a garden. A lot of people are getting huge satisfaction from knowing that UC Davis is here working on the problem, and they will do what they can to help out.”
This year colony collapse disorder appears to be less detrimental to honey-bee colonies in California and the rest of the western U.S. than it has been over the past few years reports UC Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, a member of the Department of Entomology faculty. “Part of this may be due to the fact that the beekeepers are paying more attention to the needs of their colonies throughout the season, instead of just around the end of the year,” he said. “The improvement may also be due to the fact that the most susceptible colonies have perished. The beekeepers divide their remaining colonies into new colonies in the spring and are increasing their numbers of colonies using stocks that have survived in the past.”