4-H Isn't Just About Cows 'n Chickens, You Can 'Bee' All You Can 'Bee'

Youths who want to learn beekeeping might want to consider joining the 4-H program.

Take, for example, the Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program.

At the countywide annual Project Skills Day, held last Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Vaca Pena Middle School, Vacaville, scores of 4-H'ers showed what they've learned in their projects. The projects ranged from photography to pigs, from fishing to gardening, and from poinsettias to poultry.

Two involved beekeeping.

Ian Weber of the Vaca Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville, a second-year beekeeper, discussed "The Many Different Parts of a Bee Hive," explaining his project to evaluators and fielding their questions. For his efforts, Weber won a showmanship award, one of 11 youths to win the top honor. He competed in the senior division, ages 14 to 19.

 Another Vaca Valley 4-H'er and beekeeper, Miriam Laffitte, entered in the junior division, ages 9-10, chose to discuss wax moths, a pest of beehives. She creatively titled her project "Wacky Wax Moths."

They are among the youths taught by beekeeper Garry Haddon Jr., the project leader. Like all the 4-H leaders, he is a volunteer who donates his time and expertise.

"Project Skills Day is an opportunity for 4-H'ers to show what they've learned in their projects and demonstrate their showmanship skills," said Solano County 4-H Program representative Valerie Williams. Evaluators, all 4-H volunteers, score the youths on their display, presentation, knowledge and interaction.

The 4-H program, which follows the motto, “Making the Best Better,” is open to youths ages 5 to 19.  The four H's stand for head, heart, health and hands. In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in a variety of projects. To name a few: computers, leadership, woodworking, poultry, cavies, rabbits, foods and nutrition, dog care and training, and arts and crafts. They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools, Williams points out. (Access the 4-H website at http://solano4h.ucanr.edu/Get_Involved/ for more information about the Solano County program, which currently encompasses 12 clubs.)

It's quite true that 4-H'ers (I'm speaking here as an alumnus and longtime adult volunteer) learn many life skills that they would not otherwise learn at home, or in public or private schools. 

And that includes keeping bees!