Why Keep Bees?

Jan 2, 2014

Why become a beekeeper? Why keep bees?

Beekeeper Brian Fishback of Wilton is quick to answer that.

“Bees,” he says, “teach us core family values. Bees have to take care of each other and work together for the success of the colony, just as people do for the success of their families.”

Fishback, a past president of the Sacramento Area Beekeepers’ Association, a member of the California State Beekeepers' Association, and a former volunteer at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, instills his love of bees and beekeeping to everyone around him.

He and his wife, Darla, are teaching those bee-driven core family values to their two daughters Emily, 3, and Jane, 18 months (a third daughter is due this month). The girls have been around bees since birth. The Fishbacks keep 89 hives on their Wilton ranch, the BD Ranch and Apiary.  So committed are they to bees that their website is www.beesarelife.com.

Through community outreach programs, Brian Fishback eagerly takes every opportunity to educate the public about honey bees. He displays his bee observation hives at the California State Fair and Dixon May Fair; engages in classroom, farm and other educational presentations; and annually hosts the American Honey Bee Queen, sponsored by the American Beekeeping Federation.

In his spare time, Fishback teaches introductory and advanced beekeeping classes at the Soil Born Farms, located at 2140 Chase Drive, Rancho Cordova. His next class begins March 8 and will be a two-part class, covering both beginning beekeeping and a more advanced session (See registration information. Sign-ups are now underway.)

Fishback introduces the class to the basics of beekeeping, life in the honey bee colony, equipment and tools, swarming, pests and diseases “and what it takes to get started.” He offers both classroom and field instruction, and provides an 'Introduction to Beekeeping' booklet.  

What’s different about his classes? For one: The students (who are primarily young adults) don’t just stand back and observe him opening a hive. “They’re going to work a hive that day,” he says.

Fishback remembers the joy he felt when he first opened a hive. “From the first moment I opened a hive and held a full frame of brood covered with bees, I was in utopia. Everything came together. In my hand I held the essence of core family values.”

That was in 2008.

It was also the year he and Darla purchased the Wilton ranch to pursue a self-sustaining life. “I catapulted into this way of life, knowing that honey bees would provide us with pollination as well as a natural sweetener,” Fishback recalled.

In  the fall of 2010, he began volunteering at the Laidlaw facility. One of his goals was to gain more knowledge to share in his community outreach programs. He worked with bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, beekeeper/research associate Elizabeth Frost, and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, among others. He assisted Cobey with her classes on queen-rearing and instrumental insemination and her class field trips to Butte County to visit commercial queen bee breeders. Fishback also took on tasks that needed to be done around the Laidlaw facility, such as mowing the lawn around the apiary.

Another highlight: Fishback participated in a bee beard activity that Cobey coordinated for a small group of Laidlaw beekeeping staff and volunteers. (See top photo).

Fishback continues his outreach programs “to encourage interest in honey bees and to share the importance of the honey bee to our environment and our food supply.” When he visits school classrooms, he delights in asking students to single out the queen bee, workers and drones in his bee observation hive.

That's not all.

“I allow anyone or any group with an interest agriculture, small-scale farming and of course, beekeeping, to take a day tour of my ranch, get in a bee suit, and feel the joy that life has to offer."