Title Image with a Close Up of a Bee on a Flower

Oh Honey

Honeybee Discovery Center in Orland…

Such is the concern for the honeybee that a mythology has developed around a quote often attributed to renowned physicist Albert Einstein. “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live,” he’s rumored to have said, despite any evidence. While it’s tempting to bring in such a great thinker to the critical topic of honeybee survival, there’s enough evidence to support their importance without this fabrication. The Honeybee Discovery in Orland is working to do just that.

It’s widely accepted that one-third of the food we eat is directly or indirectly derived from honeybee pollination, making them critical to human survival. The nation’s Queen Bee Capital is right here in the North State, adding to our cachet as an agricultural region. Orland and its environs produce 80 percent of North America’s queen bees, sending bee royalty to rule hives as far away as Canada and across the United States. Yet, threats such as the varroa mite and climate change pose real dangers to bee colonies across the globe.

The idea for the Honeybee Discovery Center was planted nearly 10 years ago by area beekeepers and championed extensively by Yvonne Koehnen, a woman with deep roots in area beekeeping. “They really saw a need for there to be a center to share the importance of honeybees for their role in food production and how they help the world,” says Carolina Burreson, vice president of the center’s board of directors, noting the value of creating a culture of honeybee awareness.

The Honeybee Discovery Center seeks to support healthy bee populations in a fun and engaging way. “There’s definitely a global threat to bees,” adds Burreson. “We want to responsibly highlight threats and

solutions.” The center’s current exhibit, up through June, is titled “The Vital Role of Pollinators” and features a variety of pollinators beyond bees, as well as a history of beekeeping. Private tours can be scheduled, and the center is open to the public on the first Friday of each month from 3 to 6 pm. Story time for children is at 4 pm.

The center has also developed a presentation for schoolchildren since it can’t currently accommodate large numbers of visitors at a time. “We take our show on the road using interactive props,” says Burreson. “Our goal is to then have the kids come here and immerse themselves.”

While space is currently limited, the Honeybee Discovery Center and its supporters have big plans for the future. Inspired by the honeybees and their productivity, the center has partnered with HMC Architects to design a LEED Platinum, net-zero energy center that will include classrooms, exhibit galleries, gathering spaces that can accommodate weddings, conferences and markets, as well as a visitor’s center. The city of Orland has already purchased the land, which will also feature a pollinator garden and educational outdoor space.

An exciting feature in development is a 180-degree theater that will allow a visitor to experience what it’s like inside a beehive as if they’re a bee themselves. The center also recognizes that there can be severe consequences to honeybee stings for some and is developing exhibit spaces with safety in mind. “Everybody wants to be by them, but not be stung by them,” says Burreson.

Burreson and her husband Heath are part owners of Moore Creek Apiaries and see firsthand the importance of honeybees in their almond, olive and walnut farming. As beekeepers for four years, Carolina says, “We’re considered new kids on the block.” Her involvement in the Honeybee Discovery Center is a good fit for her interests and skills, and she’s enjoyed providing foundational support for the new center.

The team at the Honeybee Discovery Center looks forward to one day hosting gatherings of beekeepers and supporting the interests of new hobbyists in a state-of-the-art educational center. Until then, they provide a wealth of knowledge for anyone to develop pollinator- friendly environments in their own homes through their online presence. The center receives support from Dr. Elina Nino of Apiculture Extension and Research at the UC Davis Department of Entomolog y and Nematolog y to make sure information is scientifically sound and up to date.

The Honeybee Discovery Center is a celebration of not only the vital queen and workers bees, but the Orland area’s role in their production and wellbeing. And, quite possibly, our human survival. •

Honeybee Discovery Center
501 Walker St., Orland www.honeybeediscoverycenter.org

About Melissa Mendonca

Melissa is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.

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