Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
If you're gearing up for the Fourth of July weekend, you'll probably head to the farmers' market, a roadside stand, or the produce department of your favorite grocery store for some freshly picked strawberries.
And you can thank a honey bee if your berry is fully formed. If it looks deformed "or not quite filled out," possibly "the seeds on that side didn't get pollinated," said Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.
Among the fruits and vegetables that require bee pollination are almonds, (seeded) citrus, plums, cherries, apples, kiwi. melons, squash, pumpkin, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and vegetable seeds such as onion seeds.
The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly demonstration garden at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, showcases a number of plants that require bee pollination, including almonds, apples, plums, blueberries, onions and squash. The garden, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus, is open to the public, year around, from dawn to dusk.
The goal of the bee haven is to provide a year-around food source for the bees at the Laidlaw facility, to raise public awareness on the plight of the honey bee, and to show visitors what they can plant in their own gardens to attract bees. And, it's a research garden. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is monitoring the dozens of different species of bees visiting the garden.
The strawberry patch is tiny--after all, this is a demonstration garden--but the berries are big. Staff and volunteers keep the garden weeded and occasionally, harvest a few strawberries.
The verdict: Berry, berry fine!
Honey bee pollinating a strawberry blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Luscious, freshly picked strawberries. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Little visitor to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven samples a strawberry. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If it looks like a bee, sips nectar like a bee, and buzzes away like a bee, that doesn't mean it's a bee.
Last weekend we visited a Fort Bragg nursery specializing in succulents, and these "little white bees" were all over the red flowering thyme (Thymus serphyllum).
"Little white bees." That's what nursery personnel and visitors called them.
Not bees, though. Wasps.
But both in the order Hymenoptera.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified it as a sand wasp, genus Bembix, probably B. americana.
"These wasps fly very rapidly and frequently visit flowers," Thorp said.
Being a wasp, it's a predator and a carnivore, not a vegetarian like the honey bee. It preys upon flies, hover flies (aka flower flies or syrphids), tachinid flies, lacewings, and other critters, taking the carcasses back to its ground nest to feed its larvae.
The sand wasp digs its nest holes in the sand, thus its name. Its abdomen looks something like a basketball referee: except instead of black and white stripes, it sports curvy black and white stripes.
Bug Guide indicates that North America is home to 19 species of sand wasps.
This one (below) seemed to be sipping nectar (adults feed on nectar).
Probably a "matter of thyme" before it nailed a fly.
Sand wasp on red flowering thyme. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Abdomen of sand wasp: note the black and white curvy stripes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Who celebrated the most? Homo sapiens or Apis mellifera?
It was difficult to tell.
The Celebration of the Bees, held June 18 at the hillside home of a Mill Valley resident, drew avid fans of honey bees and native bees (no, honey bees are not natives; the European colonists brought them to America in 1622).
Sponsored by Savory Thymes, the event featured a honey bee talk by master beekeeper-writer Mea McNeil of San Anselmo; a native bee demonstration and talk by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and learning stations staged by the Marin Beekeepers' Association.
Folks tasted honey, sampled meads, listened to live music, and feasted on hamburgers, hog dogs, beans, salad and freshly picked cherries and strawberries. It was all a benefit for the beekeeping projects of SuperOrganism: the Marin Pollen Project and the Marin Survivor Stock Queen Bee Project.
UC master gardener Kathy Ziccardi, who tends the hillside garden twice a week, thoughtfully numbered the native bee plants so guests could match each number to a hand-out sheet containing the common and botanical names. The plants ranged from African blue basil (Ocimum) and California phaelia (Phacelia cicutaria) to tickseed (Coreopsis grandiflora).
While the guests mingled, the bees worked the flowers.
There's a "bee" in benefit.
Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shows UC master gardener Kathy Ziccardi a collection of his native bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hillside hives at the Mill Valley home. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hillside crowd listens to Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of UC Davis, talk about native bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bur marigolds (Bidens ferulifolia) brighten the garden. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The feather-legged fly looks as if it were formed by a committee.
It's about the size of a house fly, but there the similarity ends.
Black head and thorax, hind legs fringed with a "comb" of short black hairs, and an abdomen that's the color of honey--bright orange honey.
It's one of those insects that prompts folks (including many entomologists) to ask: "What's THAT?"
We took a photo of "what's THAT?" yesterday on a Yolo County farm. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified it as family Tachinidae, genus Tichopoda and species, probably T. pennipes.
It's a parasitoid. The female lays her eggs inside squash bugs, stink bugs and other agricultural pests.
It was probably introduced here from Europe. Squash growers and other farmers employ it as a biological control agent.
To us, it appears to be a double agent: distinctive and deadly.
Don't let that honey-colored abdomen fool you...
Distinctively colored tachinid fly, probably Trichopoda pennipes, on Santolina rosmarinifolia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
View from above of Trichopoda pennipes on Santolina rosmarinifolia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Golden abdomen of a Trichopoda pennipes. Note the fringed legs. The fly is on Santolina rosmarinifolia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Talk about a bee celebration!
Folks with a passion for honey bees and native bees can head over to Mill Valley on Saturday, June 18 for "The Celebration of the Bees."
To be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at 221 Hillside Gardens, Mill Valley, it's a community gathering to benefit the beekeeping projects of SuperOrganism, the Marin Pollen Project, and the Marin Survivor Stock Queen Bee Project.
The "bee-in" will include a presentation on native bees by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; a talk on honey bees by master beekeeper and writer Mea McNeil of San Anselmo; demonstration and learning stations presented by the Marin Beekeepers’ Association; honey tasting featuring local varieties of honey; mead (honey wine) tasting; and live Celtic music. Hors d’oeuvres will be served.
Thorp will discuss the diversity of native bees, such as bumble bees, carpenter bees and leafcutting bees, and how residents can provide habitat for them. He does research on the role of native bees in crop pollination, the role of urban gardens as bee habitat, and declines in native bumble bee populations.
Since 2002, Thorp has served as an instructor in The Bee Course, offered annually through the American Museum of Natural History, New York at its Southwest Research Station, Portal, Ariz.
It's good to see a bee celebration that includes both honey bees and native bees.
Tickets are $35 per person and can be purchased from the Savory Thymes website. Jerry Draper is taking reservations at firstname.lastname@example.org. Although children will be admitted free, reservations are required, he said.
Mid-June should be a great time to celebrate the bees--if the weather agrees to "bee" nice.
Yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) nectaring on California white sage. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, looks over a tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)