Ettamarie Peterson: The Queen Bee Who'd Rather Be a Worker Bee

Ettamarie Peterson, fondly known as "The Queen Bee of Sonoma County," will be displaying a bee observation hive at the Vacaville Museum's Children's Party on Thursday, Aug. 8 but the life of a queen bee is not for her.

"I have decided I do not want to be the queen bee because she never ever gets to smell the flowers!" the Petaluma resident said. "I would much rather be a worker bee! The queen bee has a short life which I have already avoided, of course, and plan on many more years in the garden."

Ettamarie, in her eighth decade, is a retired teacher who taught school for 37 years, has kept bees for 30 years, and has volunteered as the leader of a 4-H beekeeping project for the past 25 years. 

A worker bee, she is!

The Vacaville Museum Children's Party, open to Vacaville children between the ages of 3 and 9, will take place from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the museum courtyard at 213 Buck Ave., Vacaville. Tickets, limited to 250, are $3 for children (same price for adults accompanying them). Tickets must be purchased at the museum on Thursdays through Saturdays between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. 

Coordinators Pamela King and Diana McLaughlin said the event, themed "Fun on the Farm," will include 4-H animals, a walk-around Mother Goose, face-painting, and a ring toss with a hobby horse named Trigger (the work of Peter Shull and Georganne Gebers), Among the many other activities, the youngsters will create sand art jars, craft paper crowns, plant seeds in a take-home container, and pose for photos behind a Bohart Museum of Entomology dogface butterfly cutout banner.  Lunch, on the house, will include hog dogs, popcorn, chips, cookies and water.

But back to Ettamarie Peterson. 

“I started beekeeping before I retired in 1998 from 37 years of teaching,” she said.  “My teaching career was mostly in special education, following a few years teaching second and first grade. I became one of the first resource teachers in California back in 1980 after getting my master's degree in special education."

Active in the beekeeping industry, Ettamarie has served as president and treasurer of Sonoma County Beekeepers' Association (SCBA) "for many years" and edits the  SCBA newsletter, The Monthly Extractor. 

She loves "talking bees." She shows her glassed-in bee observation hive at schools and other venues. She collects swarms for her Liberty 4-H Club beekeepers. "I got involved in 4-H when my son wanted his daughters to learn how to keep bees,” she recalled.  “They are both parents now so I am hoping to teach the three great-grandsons, too!" 

Her interests also include bee photography, raising chickens, growing vegetables. and planting flowers “for the bees and butterflies. My granddaughter and I have a special garden in front of my house for bees and butterflies."

Ettamarie is also a longtime friend and supporter of UC Davis. She delivered a tribute to the late Eric Mussen (1946-2022), a 38-year California Cooperative Extension apiculturist and member of the Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty.

She and her husband, Ray (a non-beekeeper), enjoy life on the Peterson Ranch. "We've been married for 65 years and have 3 children, 9 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren! What a wonderful life I have!” 

Just don't call her a queen bee, please. She'd rather be a worker bee!