Honey bees will soon find a pollinator paradise at the University of California, Davis, thanks to Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream.

Häagen-Dazs has announced that it is making a $125,000 donation to the UC Davis Department of Entomology to launch a nationwide design competition to create a one-half acre Honey Bee Haven garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.

From that gift, $65,000 will be used to establish the garden.

Häagen-Dazs and UC Davis will determine how the balance of the gift can best be used to benefit the health of honey bee populations.

"The Honey Bee Haven will be a pollinator paradise," said Lynn Kimsey, chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. "It will provide a much needed, year-round food source for our bees at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. We anticipate it also will be a gathering place to inform and educate the public about bees. We are grateful to Haagen-Dazs for its continued efforts to ensure bee health."

The garden will include a seasonal variety of blooming plants that will provide a year-round food source for honey bees. It is intended to be a living laboratory supporting research into the nutritional needs and natural feeding behaviors of honey bees and other insect pollinators.

Visitors to the garden will be able to glean ideas on how to establish their own bee-friendly gardens and help to improve the nutrition of bees in their own backyards. The bee haven is expected to be the first in a series of pollinator gardens at UC Davis.

"The garden will be extremely helpful in demonstrating that bees are not a nuisance in the backyard, but instead are obtaining food and water essential for their survival," said Eric Mussen, a Cooperative Extension apiculturist and a 32-year member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.

"Campus visitors will be able to see which flowers are most attractive to foraging honey bees and how to space the flowers in order to have bees flying in the most convenient areas of their gardens," he added.

The garden design competition funded by the Häagen-Dazs brand is being coordinated by the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis. It is open to anyone who can create a proposal by using basic landscape design principles.

"This is an excellent opportunity to raise public awareness of the current plight of honey bees and to educate the public on how they can help," said Dave Fujino, director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture. "Planting a garden with honey bee friendly plants provides nutrition for the bees and has the potential to create valuable habitat corridors between agricultural sites."

Design submissions for the competition should describe a one-half-acre garden that can be installed for $65,000 or less. Submissions must include a site plan, planting plan, maintenance program and construction cost estimate.

The plans should include plant species that provide forage for honey bees, a bee-accessible water source, and environmentally friendly paths for visitors. More design specifications and lists of bee-appropriate plants can be found at the UC Davis Department of Entomology Web site.

Design plans for the Honey Bee Haven garden must be received at UC Davis by Jan. 30, 2009. Plans should be mailed to the California Center for Urban Horticulture, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean's Office, University of California, One Shields Ave., Davis, Calif., 95616-8571.

The winning design, to be announced in February 2009, will be implemented, and the winning team will receive on-site recognition on the Häagen-Dazs commemorative plaque located within the garden. In addition, the winner will receive a free year's supply of Häagen-Dazs ice cream and will be included in a 2009 press announcement.

More information on the design competition can be obtained from Melissa Borel, program manager at UC Davis' California Center for Urban Horticulture, at (530) 752-6642 or mjborel@ucdavis.edu.

Honey bees, which pollinate more than 100 different U.S. agricultural crops, valued at $15 billion, are dying from an unexplained phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. First identified three years ago, the disorder is characterized by hive abandonment. The bees disappear, often leaving behind the honey and the immature bees, which die if not fed by the worker bees. In recent years, the nation's beekeepers have reported losing from one-third to all of their bees.

Bee experts suspect that a multitude of causes, including pesticides, diseases, parasites, stress, climate change and malnutrition, are contributing to the dramatic decline in honey bee populations. Seasonal food shortages lead to malnutrition in the bees, making them more susceptible to diseases.

The Häagen-Dazs brand in February of this year launched the "Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees" campaign. The company committed a combined $250,000 donation for bee research to UC Davis and Pennsylvania State University. It also formed a seven-member scientific advisory board, created an educational Web site at http://www.helpthehoneybees.com, and introduced the new Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream flavor.

During the last several months, the public has generously responded to the Häagen-Dazs brand's call to action by donating more than $30,000 to support honey bee research at UC Davis. In addition, numerous companies have launched programs that are donating a percentage of their sales to support UC Davis honey bee research. For example, Whole Foods Markets generated more than $10,600 in direct and matching gifts through its in-store promotions.

Anyone interested in donating to UC Davis honey bee research may obtain information at https://awc.ucdavis.edu/makeagift.aspx?alloccat=2000.

More information on the project is at http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/news/honeybeegardenatucdavis.html.