Just Bee-Cause

Mar 7, 2014

In recent years, honey bees received neither recognition nor respect until commercial beekeeper David Hackenberg of Pennsylvania/Florida sounded the alarm in 2006 about his missing honey bees.

His bees went MIA due to a mysterious phenomenon we now know as colony collapse disorder (CCD), characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive and leaving behind the queen, nurse bees, brood and food stores. Without the adult workers bringing in nectar, pollen, propolis and water, the hive collapses.

Today, just above everybody knows about the declining honey bee population and the importance of improving bee health and safeguarding their pollination services.

So it was with great relevance that when a UC Davis team asked for photos of "Women Feeding the World: Farmers, Mothers and CEOs" that the images included beekeepers.

The campuswide project gained huge momentum. The photos traveled from a campus display at the Memorial Union to  the Modern Farmer magazine, to the Weather Channel and then to CBC.

Brenda Dawson, communications coordinator for the Horticulture Innovation Lab, formerly the Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP), spearheaded much of the project, which spotlights,  elevates and praises the status of women involved in food production throughout the world. 

In the olden days, women in agriculture were considered "farmer's wives" or "farmer's daughters," but rarely farmers.

Farmers they are. They always were. UC Davis illuminated them.

The project featured four images of beekeepers, ranging from women in California and Washington state to Bolivia and  Botswana.

They included bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of Washington State University, formerly of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis; commercial bee queen breeder Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, a past president of the California State Apiary Board and the California State Beekeepers' Association; Queen Turner, former Humphrey Fellow at UC Davis and  the head of the beekeeping section, Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana government (Kathy Keatley Garvey photos), as well as an image of Bolivian beekeepers taken by former Peace Corps volunteer Britta L. Hansen of the Horticulture Innovation Lab.

Dawson lauded the many campus and community organizations that "came together" to sponsor the event and its online gallery and campus display,  including several units from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences: the Blum Center, Horticulture Collaborative Research Support Program, International Programs Office, and Program in International and Community Nutrition. Additional sponsors include the World Food Center, Office of Campus Community Relations, Women's Resources and Research Center, and the off-campus organization Freedom from Hunger.

CBC described the images as "powerful photos" of women feeding the world.

That they are. And they're especially significant because March 8 is International Women's Day.