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Stories from the valley

Sweet Royalty

Contributed by Jim Morris

From almonds to watermelon, much of our food relies on honeybees. They pollinate billions of dollars worth of crops every year, so their well-being is vital to us all.

Wootens Bees 1

With our warm spring weather, the Sacramento Valley is like a Club Med for bees. In fact, some of the largest bee producers in the state reside in our valley.

Shannon and Glenda Wooten have raised Queen Bees in Palo Cedro, Shasta County, since 1974. They produce about 50,000 Queen Bees a year, which are shipped throughout the U.S. and Canada.  Theirs is a multi-generational farm, with their son and daughter-in-law assuming more responsibility.

Shannon Wooten- 31716

Spending your workday around bees may not be your cup of tea, but this family appreciates these industrious insects.

“I just respect them,” remarked Shannon. “They’re pretty phenomenal in a lot of ways – their colonization, how they work, how they survive. You learn to deal with that and it’s really fun to watch the bees- especially come out of winter and start growing. The bees actually get fat – just like a cow or anything else. They start making honey and their little bodies swell up. It’s fun to see them get fat.”

Bees 4

They graft Queen Bee cells by taking worker bee larvae and placing it in a queen cell cup. The cup is placed in a queenless starter hive. Two things differentiate the queen – she’s fed Royal Jelly and is raised upside down.

My visit to this farm was eye-opening and, frankly, pulse pounding. Bees provide so much for us all, but they can be a little testy on a warm afternoon.  I’m happy to leave this unheralded part of agriculture to the experts!