Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven

Easy to Locate?

Dog-Friendly?

Easy to Walk?

FREE?

Adequate Parking?

Restroom Facilities?

 Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is a dog-friendly half-acre plot of land near the University of California, Davis set aside for the study of bees.  It’s right next door to the Harry Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.  Because the garden is only an acre and the paths are well drawn, it’s easy to walk around it, and even if there are no researchers on hand, there are signs throughout the place that let you know what you’re looking at.  The street on which the garden is situated has a lot of tall olive trees along it, so there are a lot of shady places to park.  There are no restrooms open to the public, however, so take that into consideration before you make the drive.  The garden is open from dawn to dusk year-round and admission is free.

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I went there to gather information for a “Tuleyome Tales” article I wrote for the local newspapers, and was fortunate enough to get one of the main researchers, Dr. Robbin Thorp, to take me on a tour and tell me all about the bees.  All of the plants in the place are planted specifically to attract pollinators (including bees, butterflies, wasps and hummingbirds).  In the back area were boxed hives of honey bees, and Dr. Thorp told me that his bees, along with thousands of other brought into California from all over the country, are used to help pollinate fruit trees throughout northern California.  The boxes are transported to where they’re needed so the bees can do their thing, and then the colonies are transported back to wherever they came from.

There was also a hive inside the building, with an entrance that opens to the outside, so the bees can come and go as they please, and the researchers can watch the hive.  The hive is all encased in glass, so you can see everything from the waggling dance of the bees, to their troves of honey, to the specially marked queen.  Queen honey bees can live for several years, and beekeepers rotate the queens periodically to make sure they always have a young viable one in the hive.  A white dot can be used for the youngest, for example, then after a year she gets a blue dot, then green, then yellow… If the researchers find a queen without a dot, it means she’s an invader who moved in when the resident queen died (or was killed by the intruder), and they usually shoo her out because they don’t know anything about her genetic strain…

Native bees, on the other hand, are solitary; so there is no queen ruling over a hive.  It’s just a lady bee who looks for suitors to fertilize her eggs, and then goes off to lay eggs and feed the babies by herself.  Rather than living in hives, they live in little holes or underground burrows.  The lady bee stuffs the hole (or the hatchery cells in the burrow she’s dug) with a ball of pollen and nectar and then lays an egg on the ball.  She then seals that up with a daub of mud, lays down another pollen ball, lay more eggs… and on and on.  There were several native bee “condos” in the bee garden (6×9’s with deep holes drilled into them, and lined with straws) for the native bees.  Some of them already had eggs laid in them.  Dr. Thorp pulled out one the straws and held it up to the sun, so we could see the shadows of the chambers and the little pupae developing inside of it…

He also had a toy vacuum-thing that he used to suck bees off the plants and put them into a viewing jar with a magnifying glass on the top of it, so he could show me some of the different species.  He then snagged one of the big Teddy Bear Bees (Xylocopa varipuncta, the Valley Carpenter Bee) in a butterfly net and held onto it so I could take some photos of it.  (It was a stingless male.)  While he was holding it, Dr. Thorp told me to touch his hand so I could feel the vibration of the bee buzzing between his fingers.  It was like putting your hand on a car stereo at full blast.  Wow, those things can really generate a lot of concussion!  Dr. Thorp said that’s what startles predators: when a lizard tries to snap down on the bee, it gets a mouth full of vibration that usually scares it enough to let go.

All through the garden are paintings, sculptures and mosaics that have been donated to the garden from local artists and from the art department at UC Davis.  For art students who need science class credit to graduate, they can take an art-and-science fusion class that lets them do something creative for the garden while they learn about the bees.  So there’s something new in the garden every year… Oh, and added to the fun of the day I was there, I also met photographer Allan Jones who allowed me to sue some of the photos he took of the Teddy Bear bees to use with my newspaper article.

How to Get to the Bee Haven:

The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven is located at 1 Bee Biology Rd, Davis, CA 95616. It’s easy to find off of Highway 113 (from Woodland, CA) or Highway 80 (from Sacramento).

Thank you to Google for the map.
Thank you to Google for the map.

Off of Highway 113 take Hutchison Drive; then turn LEFT onto Hopkins Road; and then turn LEFT onto Bee Biology Road

For more information you can also go to the The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven website.  You can also visit the Xerces Society and Pollinator.org for information on identifying the native bees in your yard, and on what plants you can plant in your garden to attract the bees.

From the Pollinator.org website:

The Pollinator Partnership (P2) advocates S.H.A.R.E. (simply have areas reserved for the environment) approach to the planet. Every human interface with a landscape can simply have areas reserved for the environment. We believe that pollinators show the way to sharing. When you plant for pollinators, plants, pollinators, people, and the environment all benefit. From schools to farms, to churches, to corporation everyone is getting involved and registering their S.H.A.R.E. landscape. Get involved today!
The Pollinator Partnership (P2) advocates S.H.A.R.E. (simply have areas reserved for the environment) approach to the planet. Every human interface with a landscape can simply have areas reserved for the environment. We believe that pollinators show the way to sharing. When you plant for pollinators, plants, pollinators, people, and the environment all benefit. From schools to farms, to churches, to corporation everyone is getting involved and registering their S.H.A.R.E. landscape. Get involved today!