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. 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.
• Easy to Locate? Yes
• Pet Friendly? Yes. Dogs MUST be on a leash.
• Easy to Walk? Yes.
• Is there a Fee? No.
• Are there Restrooms? No,
• Is there Accessible Parking? Yes, but it’s VERY limited, so carpool if you can
• Other Notes: Even if there are no researchers on hand, there are signs throughout the place that let you know what you’re looking at. There are also some wonderful art pieces on the property.
See my FLICKR account for more albums of photos taken at this location throughout the last several years.
I went there to gather information for an 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 use 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).
Off of Highway 113 take the Hutchison Drive exit
Turn LEFT onto Hopkins Road
Turn LEFT onto Bee Biology Road
For more information you can also go to the The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven website.