There are as many different ways to take a vacation as there are vacationers. Some like to get to a destination and then stay put. Others like to take in all they can and save the relaxing for when they get back home. Chuck and I are happiest when we get off the beaten path, move at a relaxed pace and forage from whatever we find along the way.
In the fall, we had decided to take a get away with no destination in mind. We just pulled out of the driveway with the camping gear in tow and headed north. Why north? Well, primarily because this is a direction many born-and-raised Californians just never go, unless they are on a bee-line to Lake Tahoe. They act as though the state ends once you arrive in San Francisco and Napa wine country; as if the Oregon border is just a short drive away. And, since San Francisco lies geographically just a little over halfway up the California coast, that pretty much makes half the state of California off-the-beaten path territory!
This is a post about one little treasure – the Häagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven – that we stumbled upon off the main campus at the University of California at Davis. After a short drive down a rural road, we arrived at the Department of Entomology grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road. There we found a half-acre bee-friendly and visitor-friendly garden filled with beauty, education, bees and ceramic art! What a jackpot!
Upon first entering the garden, we were greeted by artist Donna Billick’s “Miss Bee Haven,” a six-foot-long ceramic mosaic honey bee sculpture. With a name like ‘Miss Bee Haven’, it should come as no surprise that the sculpture is an accurate (except for its giant size) representation of a worker bee.
We followed the path of a numbered, self-guided tour that took us past wonderful plantings of bee-friendly plants with signs and displays interspersed that taught us about the amazing bees, their plight, and how we can all help. As bee keepers ourselves, we found it to be a fantastic demonstration garden as well as a year-round food source for the six million bees that forage from the 110 hives at the nearby Laidlaw facility.
Along the path, we also passed several more ceramic bee art installations created by Donna Billick and students from the entomology programs over the years that beautifully demonstrate the life of a honey bee. One structure entitled ‘Life in the Hive’ depicts the life cycle of the worker bees, queen bee, and drones in great accuracy right down to a depiction of a waggle dance! Two other ceramic mosaic planters showcase honey bees, bee-friendly gardening and alternative pollinators such as butterflies and other varieties of bees. There are even ceramic displays showing people who were deathly afraid of bees who then developed an appreciation for the honey bee after a little bit of education.
By now you may be wondering why the garden bears Häagen Dazs in its name. What does an ice cream manufacturer have to do with a garden filled with bee-friendly plants, honey bees and ceramic art?
Well, back in 2008, Häagen-Dazs got involved in the plight of the honey bee. With so many of the world’s ice cream ingredients dependent on the honey bee for pollination, they recognized it was in their best interest to be part of a solution when the bees started to struggle. They made a generous donation to UC Davis and the entomologists working to address these issues and, in the fall of 2009, the Haven was planted.
Next time you are in the Davis, California area, take an hour or so to visit the Haven. It is open from dawn to dusk. Admission is free. But the insight you will take away from a lovely stroll through the garden will be priceless.
It’s all about the bees, the garden and the art.