‘Honey! A Sweet Partnership between the Robert Mondavi Institute and the Co-Sponsors
Nov. 20, 2011 Watch webcasts of six talks on UCTV
Melissa Heim of Martinez samples honey. (Photos by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
DAVIS-- Nearly 150 enthusiastic honey fans celebrated honey at the first-ever “Honey!” event sponsored by the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. The daylong celebration, which took place Friday, Oct. 21 in the UC Davis Conference Center, drew co-sponsorships from the UC Davis Department of Entomology, the Julia Child Foundation of Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
The event included talks by five former or current UC Davis faculty members, a honey-themed lunch, a guided honey tasting, a “best honey” contest and a reception featuring the Honeybee Trio of Vacaville and the Jazz Nuances of Davis.
Eric Mussen discussed “The Wonder of Honey Bees”; assistant professor/bee biologist Brian Johnson, “Honey Bee Communication: How Bees Use Teamwork to Make Honey”; emeritus professor/bee scientist Norman Gary, an author and professional bee wrangler, “Hobby Beekeeping in Urban Environments”; Louis Grivetti, professor emeritus in the nutrition department, “Historical Uses of Honey as Food,” and Liz Applegate, nutrition professor and director of the Sports Nutrition Program, “Honey for Better Health and Performance.”
Entomology professor James R. Carey videotaped all the lectures. The videos and audios are online on UCTV.
In his talk, Mussen told the crowd that “Honey bees are truly marvelous.”
Unlike what happens in the human society, honey bees work together for the good of the colony, he said. Honey bees all have certain duties. The foragers collect water, nectar and propolis (plant resin) and fly up to four miles, covering a 50-square mile area.
The taste of honey. Participants at the Honey! event judge the honey.
A typical hive includes 45,000 to 60,000 in the summer and about 10,000 to 15,000 in the winter, he said. A worker bee lives only about six weeks in the summer and six months in the winter. During peak season, a queen bee can lay as many as 2000 eggs a day, he said.
Mussen related that the pheromone released by a bee during a stinging incident “smells like bananas, because it’s the same chemical.” A European honey bee can follow an odor or pheromone for up to 50 feet, but the more aggressive Africanized honey bee can “follow the odor up to one-fourth of a mile or 1,320 feet,” Mussen said.
In his talk, Johnson said there are four castes: newly emerged, nurses, middle-age and foragers. “Bees go through puberty four times,” he said.
“Only foragers talk; middle-age bees listen,” Johnson said. The foragers share information on food sources with their dances, such as the waggle dance. The other bees learn the distance and direction. And this all happens in the dark, he said.
Johnson mentioned that a returning bee will “head butt” when she encounters danger at a recommended foraging spot. It’s like telling her colony “I got beat up so don’t go there.”
The take home message: “Bees have small brains but can solve big problems,” Johnson said. Among the books he recommended: Thomas Seeley’s “Honeybee Democracy” and “Wisdom of the Hive, and Karl von Frish’s “The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees.”
In his talk, Norman Gary said he began keeping bees 64 years ago. “Beekeeping is a lot cheaper than golf, gambling or collecting some types of collectibles,” he said.
“And, it’s just plain fun. Bees are more fun than African violets; African violets have no personality.”
Advocating beekeeping in the urban environment, Gary said that “bees provide a tremendous public service”—pollination. Neighborhoods that have bees are much better off, he said.
Gary said that “the fear of stings is greatly exaggerated. Only one percent of the population is hypersensitive to bee stings and can go into anaphylactic shock.”
In his talk, Grivetti traced the history of bees to a 20-million-year-old fossil. From the earliest times, people have been fascinated by bees, he said. Ancient Israel was considered “the land of milk and honey.” Ancient Egypt used honey to treat wounds, headaches and as a mouthwash.
Artists and poets continue to keep the images of bees alive—from the German fairy tale about “Queen Bee” by the Grimm Brothers to the anonymous poet who penned, “I eat my peas with honey/I've done it all my life/It makes the peas taste funny/But it keeps them on the knife.”
In her talk, Applegate said many athletes use honey to gain quick energy. Olympic medalist/swimmer Catherine Carr of Davis said honey helped her prepare for and compete in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, where she won two gold medals (breaststroke and medley relay).
UC Davis assistant professor Brian Johnson (left) answers a question from beekeeper Clay Ford of Vacaville.
During the honey-themed lunch, participants had the opportunity to vote on their favorite honey, view the dozen displays, including observation hives loaned by beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton; and purchase a copy of Norman Gary’s newly published book, “Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees.”
In his talk about honey, Mussen said the color of the honey can be anything from nearly clear to as dark as molasses. He himself prefers starthistle honey, made from an exotic and invasive weed.
The Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies won first place in the best honey competition. Second place went to Alan Pryor of Alameda; and third place, Diane Kriletich of Paloma, Calaveras County. Prizes included gift baskets from the Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and a “Show Me the Honey” t-shirt and macro photos of honey bees donated by Kathy Keatley Garvey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
The day concluded with a reception featuring music by the Honeybee Trio of Vacaville and Jazz Nuances of Davis. The Honeybee Trio is comprised of three teenage girls: Karli Bosler, 16, Sarah McElwain, 15, and Natalie Angst, 16, all students at Will C. Wood High School who specialize in classics from the 1930s and beyond in three part-harmony. Among their toe-tapping hits: “Sugartime” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree With Anyone Else but Me.”
“It was a sweet day all in all,” said coordinator Clare Hasler-Lewis, executive director of RMI.
To watch the videos or listen to the audios, check out the index page
or directly access the talks below.
Louis Grivetti: “Historical Uses of Honey as Food”
Norm Gary: “Hobby Beekeeping in Urban Environments”
Eric Mussen: “The Wonder of Honey Bees”
Brian Johnson: “How Bees Use Teamwork to Make Honey”
Liz Applegate: “Sweet Success: Honey for Better Health and Performance” http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=23101
Eric Mussen: “Honey Tasting”
Honey! Event photos, by Kathy Keatley Garvey
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology