Hughson resident Dan Cota is a third-generation beekeeper, who was taught the tricks of the trade by his father and grandfather. While he often keeps a bit of his workers’ honey for himself and family friends, the busy group of 300 hives – between 30,000 and 50,000 bees – remains active during the pollinating season by buzzing between the thousands of almond blossoms throughout the area.
Q: What initially drew you to the occupation of beekeeping?
A: Everything about the bees. I find them fascinating – the way they work together, the harmony of a hive. I love walking in a bee yard and hearing all the buzzing and commotion and knowing there’s a reason for all of that madness. It’s therapeutic being surrounded by those little creatures.
Q: How does your bee pollinating service work, and do you ever get stung?
A: I contract with one farmer, who keeps the bees on his orchards for a six-week period. The going rate depends, but it can be anywhere between $160 to $200 for the pollination. I do get stung – I think it just becomes a part of what you do. I’ll never enjoy being stung but it stops bothering you after a while.
Q: Where do your bees stay when they’re not pollinating?
A: For the duration of the year, I have a lot of farmer friends who let me place them throughout the county. They’re on alfalfa pastures, and fly into Turlock and the surrounding areas to visit gardens and pollinate their flowers.
Q: Why are bees so important to this community, and has colony collapse disorder affected your hives?
A: Almonds are such a huge crop in this area, and bees play a major role. Bee education is very important because they are a vital part of this ecosystem. If you have bees, you have to stay on top of everything, be careful with them and keep an eye out for disease. Yes, there are always some losses, but I haven’t had any issues with colony collapse disorder.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in the area for fun?
A: My family and I enjoy visiting RAM Farms, whether it’s their ice skating rink or pumpkin patch. It’s something to do for the family that provides a lot of entertainment.
Q: What is the last book, movie or TV show that captivated you?
A: The book “Crime and Punishment.” I like the classics.
Q: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I have lived in four different countries and speak three different languages.