What Happens When Quizzical Kids Meet a Smiling Queen Bee

When you're a little kid and there's a huge bee towering over you, what do you do?

You do what comes naturally.

Kids reacted differently toward the adults who donned the California Master Beekeeper Program's queen bee costume at the third annual California Honey Bee Festival last Saturday in downtown Woodland.

Some looked at Ms. Queen Bee, quite quizzically. What's that?

Others gave her the high five, a smile, a giggle, or a hug as their parents moved in closer to take photos.

But one little boy clutching a stuffed toy pink pig did three things. First he offered an outstretched hand for a high five. Then he introduced his pink pig to Ms. Queen Bee.  After the proper introductions, he asked if she would remove her head so he could see her face.

Ms. Queen Bee obliged, much to his delight.

The sign in front of the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB), which is directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, succinctly explained what the program is all about: "Educating stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping."

Master Beekeeper Wendy Mather, program manager of CAMPB, and several others staffed the booth, while research associate Bernardo of the Niño lab opened hives inside a screened tent to show visitors what a colony looks like. Bernardo, who serves as the educational supervisor for CAMPB,  introduced the crowd to the queen bee, worker bees and drones.

The California Honey Festival, sponsored by the City of Woodland and the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, included a cooking stage, a UC Davis educational stage, a kids' zone, a refreshment zone, and live entertainment.

UC Davis was well represented. Among the UC Davis attractions:  the Honey and Pollinator Center offered free honey tasting; the Bohart Museum of Entomology displayed both live insects and specimens; the UC Davis Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven provided pollinator gardening information; the UC Davis Graduate Student Association offered t-shirts; and the UC Davis Stores offered a selection of beekeeping and bee books, including "The Honey Bee Hobbyist: The Care and Keeping of Bees" by emeritus professor and retired bee wrangler Norm Gary.

More than 30,000 people attend the festival every year. Its mission: to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping. Through lectures and demonstrations, the crowd can learn about bees and how to keep them healthy. Issues facing the bees include pests, pesticides, diseases, malnutrition, and climate changes.

And sometimes understanding honey bees all begins when a little kid can engage with a smiling, costumed queen bee--and she obligingly removes her head!