It's All the Buzz: 4-H'ers Learning How to Keep Bees

Mar 4, 2016

Nathaniel Haddon of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, is only nine years old, but he already knows more about honey bees than many adults do.

He readily names the three castes: queen bee, worker bee and drone. He explains that the workers are all females, and that drones are males and they can't sting because they have no stingers. He knows how to tend a hive and he knows the importance of bee pollination.

His father, beekeeper Garry Haddon Jr., of GLH Honey Bees, Fairfield, has kept bees for four years. 

Nathaniel talked about bees at the recent Solano County 4-H Presentation Day, held at Willis Jepson Middle School, Vacaville. The annual event is an opportunity for 4-H'ers to share what they've learned in their projects, and to gain presentation experience.

Nathaniel illustrated his hand-crafted poster, “Honey Bees,” with drawings of the queen bee, worker bee and drone; a drawing of the life cycle of a bee; and photos of him working the hives and holding a frame.

Nathaniel's display table included his bee suit, a bottle of honey, and honey sticks, which he shared with the adult evaluators Cara Kent and Brenda Torres.

“Thank you for telling us about the bees,” one of the evaluators told him. “We learned a lot about bees. We didn't know that all the workers are female.”

Following the presentation,  we asked Nathaniel what he likes best about bees. “How drones can't sting,” he said.

His father volunteers as the 4-H beekeeping project leader. “We have 12 in our group,” Garry Haddon Jr. said. “We've already built eight hives. We're getting our packages of bees from Koehnens (C.F. Koehnen & Sons of Glenn County) in March.”

Learning about bees is lifelong. “I pass on the information I've learned to the kids,” Haddon said. One of his mentors is beekeeper John Foster of John Foster Bz Bee Pollination Esparto. Garry hopes to take a course from the University of California, Davis soon. “The courses (taught by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño and her group) were already filled when I tried to sign up," he said. "I was on the waiting list. I'm looking forward to the next course offered."

Earlier this year Garry trucked some of his bees to Turlock to pollinate the almonds. He bottles his honey and also produces honey sticks.

He has not always been enamored with bees. “When I was in high school, I thought bees were pests,” Garry acknowledged.

Not any more. He considers bees a treasure.

Lately the 4-H beekeeping leader has been showing his project members how to build hives, and he encourages them to decorate their own hive, "to make it their own." Three 4-H'ers, Ashlyn Haddon, Adrianna Haddon and Hallee Winchell, displayed their decorated hives at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day.

4-H Youth Development Program
The 4-H Youth Development Program is a non-profit youth educational program administered through the UC Cooperative Extension. In 4-H, youths from ages 5 to 19 learn skills through hands-on learning and have fun doing it, said Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H program representative.  The international organization draws youth from all ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds who live in rural, suburban, and urban communities. The four H's in 4-H stand for head, heart, hands, and health. The motto: "To make the best better."

Age-appropriate projects within each club are the heart of 4-H's hands-on learning. Each project focuses on a topic, anything from A (art)  to Z (zoology). Among the many projects: animal sciences, bicycling, camping, computers, drama, entomology, leadership, music, photography, quilting, rocketry, textile arts, and woodworking. 

For information on the Solano County 4-H Program, access or contact Valerie Williams at or (707) 784-1319.

UC Davis Beekeeping Courses

  • Beekeeping Courses. To get on the list for UC Davis-offered beekeeping courses, send an email to from the address you want to subscribe to the list and in the subject line of your message, type in: subscribe elninobeelabclasses Firstname Lastname 
  • Master Beekeeping Courses. To get on the list for the newly created UC Davis Master Beekeeper Program, send an email to from the address you want to subscribe to the list and in the subject line of your message, type in: subscribe camasterbee Firstname Lastname

For more information on UC Davis beekeeping courses, contact the E.L. Nino lab at 530-380-BUZZ (2899) or access the website at and Facebook at