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Davis, California

Friday, October 22, 2021

Safe haven created for honey bees

The much-anticipated Honey Bee Haven had its grand opening on Sept. 11 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.

The garden features food for the bees, a Learning Center and guided tours for members of the public to learn more about the plight of bees, said Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis department of entomology.

Bees all over the United States are dying out due to a phenomenon called the colony collapse disorder (CCD) where bees simply desert their hives.

“The adult bees just leave their hives and they keep going and going,” said Eric Mussen from the entomology department. “The food, the honey – all of it is there, [so we know] they haven’t starved to death. We don’t know why they just get up and go.”

Though scientists currently don’t completely understand CCD despite putting in about four years of research, they believe that one of the reasons might be the inability of bees to find forage.

Häagen-Dazs, as part of their Help the Honey Bees campaign, donated $250,000 for the haven. Kimsey said the haven may be renamed the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven due to the company’s donation.

While some may find the idea of entering a garden of bees dangerous, Melissa “Missy” Borel, program manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture, said being respectful of the bees by staying on the paths and not disturbing them will keep people safe when visiting the garden.

“Honey bees lose their life when they sting you,” she said. “Since their mission is to collect nectar and pollen for their hive, they are only going to sting when their life or the well-being of their hive is threatened.”

Borel warned against provoking the bees by swatting at them or stepping on them.

Kimsey, who came up with the idea for the garden, explained that that the actual design for the garden was carefully selected through a competition where over 30 teams from all over the world submitted entries. The winning design, submitted by a team from Sausalito, California has four interconnected gardens named “Honeycomb Hideout,” “Nectar Nook,” “Pollinator Patch” and “My Backyard” with trails connecting the four sections. The team was chosen for various reasons including having over 40 different plants and cost feasibility.

Identification labels on plants also help visitors learn how to plant their own bee-friendly gardens in their backyards, another way for students and members of the Davis community to get involved.

Borel was on the panel of judges of the design competition and was involved in overseeing the construction phase. She now coordinates the volunteering efforts to maintain the garden, encouraging UC Davis students in particular to get involved.

“It’s a really rewarding opportunity,” she said. “They [can] learn a lot from the entomology researchers out there and from the experienced gardeners. Anyone can be a volunteer. All you need are garden gloves.”

AKSHAYA RAMANUJAM can be reached campus@theaggie.org.

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