Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
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)
Mother's Day, insect-style, dawned like any other day. In our back yard, golden honey bees foraged in the lavender and those ever-so-tiny sweat bees visited the rock purslane.
The honey bees? Those gorgeous Italians.
The sweat bees? Genus Lasioglossum, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. He figures the female sweat bee (below) may be L. mellipes, which is brownish toward the tips of the hind legs.
A trip to Benicia yielded a photo of a ladybug chasing aphids. It was almost comical. A fat aphid appeared to be playing "King of the Hill" while other aphids sucked contentedly on plant juices, unaware of pending predators.
While the aphids wreaked havoc on a very stressed Escallonia (fast-growing hedge in the family Escalloniaceae), the ladybugs, aka lady beetles, wreaked havoc on some very stressed aphids.
After all, "stressed" spelled backwards is "desserts."
Italian honey bee foraging on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Sweat bee (genus Lasioglossum) visiting rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybug, aka lady beetle, chasing aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)