Bees and CAMBP Prevail at California Honey Festival

Rain and hail pelted the California Honey Festival, held recently in downtown Woodland, but that didn't deter the estimated 22,000 to 25,000 attendees who simply opened their umbrellas, slipped on their rain gear, or dashed for cover at store fronts.

The educational and entertaining activities drew them in. 

The UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP) was a huge part of it.  CAMBP staffed an information booth, fielding questions about honey bees, bee health, and its organization; presented speeches on the UC Davis Speakers' Stage; and staffed an arts and crafts table where youngsters could get creative--and they did!--with bee-utiful decorations.

CAMBP, founded in 2016 by Cooperative Extension associate professor and apiculturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, offers comprehensive, science-based information about honey bees and honey bee health. A continuous train-the-trainer program, CAMBP certifies Bee Ambassador, Apprentice, Journey, and Master level beekeepers so, according to the website, "they can effectively communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators within their communities, serve as mentors for other beekeepers, and become the informational conduit between the beekeeping communities throughout the state and UCCE (Cooperative Extension staff)."

CAMBP Master Beekeeper Sung Lee of Castro Valley, known worldwide on social media as "Sung Lee The Bee Charmer," provided an observation hive.  Throughout the festival, his queen bee laid eggs as attendees excitedly asked questions and captured images. Lee said he purposely did not mark the queen so folks would look for her.  "When there were more than five in a crowd, I offered one dollar to whoever finds the queen in 30 seconds," he related. And then he told them: "If you don't, everyone pays me one dollar!"

"I learned that in comedy class!" he quipped.

Wrlter Jason Laurenzano profiled him in Passions Illustrated in a Dec. 31, 2020 piece titled Sung Lee, The Bee Charmer.  Laurenzano described him as "a 62-year-old Korean-born naturalized U.S. citizen who owns and operates a pair of successful and award-winning dry cleaning businesses." In his childhood, Sung trained as a speed skater and figure skater.

"In 1982, at the age of 23, he opened Hesperian Cleaners, Inc. in San Lorenzo, California," Laurenzano wrote. "He later opened a second location in the nearby town of Danville. Both are successful not only economically but also in terms of environmental responsibility.  His was the first to convert to green technology in Alameda County, replacing toxic cleaning solvents with a technology known as 'Professional Wet Cleaning' that conserves water and energy and produces no hazardous waste."  In 2011, Lee was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Environmental Business People and is featured in the regional "Legendary Locals" book.

Sung Lee says his interest in beekeeping originated with fruit trees on his property.  Trained by the California Master Beekeeper Program, he went on to become a member of the board of directors of the Mount Diablo Beekeepers Association, "Beekeeper of the Year," and vice president. His fans include 2400 on Facebook (Sung Lee the Bee Charmer); 3100 on Instagram, and more than 4100 on TikTok (with 6.1 million likes). 

UC Davis Award. CAMBP recently won a Faculty/Staff Partnership Citation of Excellence Award from the UC Davis Staff Assembly for "outstanding achievements and notable contributions" in disseminating science-based beekeeping information through a network of organizations and trained volunteers since 2016. Chancellor Gary May will present the award to Niño and co-program manager Wendy Mather at a fall reception on the UC Davis campus. 

"The award seeks to highlight teams who actively develop and encourage faculty/staff partnerships and as a result are able to make notable contributions to UC Davis that contribute to the University's Mission of Teaching, Research, and Service; and who exemplify outstanding achievement and/or service," according to Staff Assembly officials.  (Kian Nikzad serves as the co-program manager of CAMBP but as a new employee, was ineligible to be nominated)

Since 2016, CAMBP has:

  • Given 32,000 hours of volunteer time (Beneficial Educational Experiences) and served 186,630 individuals in education, outreach and beekeeping mentorship. If a volunteer hour is worth  $26.87, the program has given $859,840 back to the state of California in service of science-based beekeeping and honey bee health. 
  • Enrolled 185 Honey Bee Ambassadors (a level established in 2021), 494 Apprentice, 93 Journey level candidates and certified 20 Master level beekeepers. There are 12 members in 2023 participating in their Master Capstone projects. 
  • Since the team began tracking Continuing Education Experiences in 2020, they're recorded 3752 hours
  • They're also working on updating a safety manual. 

The California Honey Festival, launched in 2017, is the brainchild of the City of Woodland and Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. It takes place annually in downtown Woodland. The 2024 celebration is scheduled May 4.

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

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