Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
Native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin of the Bay Area is on a three-fold mission: She wants to protect North America's premier pollinators; she wants to inspire an appreciation for the importance and diversity of our native bees; and she wants people to create a habitat for native bees in their own gardens.
So, as an educational tool meant for all ages, Ets-Hokin originated the idea of a Wild Bee Gardens app to "show the dazzling diversity of North America's native bees." The app links native bees to many of the flowers they frequent.
The app is a comprehensive introduction to what the UC Berkeley zoology graduate calls "the essential world of native bees." It's comprised of some 300 photographs of native bees and their floral resources (primarily by entomologist/insect photographer Rollin Coville of the Bay Area) plus 100 pages "of extensive background and educational material in the form of guides."
Topics covered in the guides include:
- The role of native bees in our natural ecosystems
- The ecology and life cycles of native bees
- How to create a successful bee garden
- How to identify the native bee visitors that will appear in these gardens
Ets-Hokin also praised the "amazing job" of the design and development team, Arlo and Rebecca Armstrong.
Where to get Wild Bee Gardens? The I-Pad version is now available on the Apple App Store for the introductory price of $3.99. Those purchasing the app will receive the upcoming, expanded iPhone version at no additional cost, said Ets-Hokin, adding that they also will receive free downloads of all future enhancements.
Ets-Hokin devotes her time to the public awareness and conservation of native bees. This includes establishing a native bee demonstration garden with the Alameda County Master Gardeners at Lake Merritt, Oakland; and coordinating the publication of native bee calendars .
A screen shot of the "Wild Bee Gardens" app.
This is the app icon. It's of the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, heading toward a California poppy.
Don't you just love watching bumble bees?
This morning we watched a yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) foraging on lavender. It moved quickly from one blossom to another, barely allowing us time for a "bee shoot." It was "bee gone" every time we aimed the camera.
Finally, it cooperated.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, identified it as a male, the first (photo of a male Bombus vosnesenskii) he's seen this season.
He thinks a prize is in order.
Thorp, co-author of the newly published Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton Press), and Davis photographers Gary Zamzow and Allan Jones and yours truly usually have a friendly competition to find and photograph the first bumble bee of the year, of the month, of the day, of the minute. Well, almost. It's "Bumble Bee Alert" a lot. On Christmas Day, I managed to capture an image of a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, foraging on jade blossoms at the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, Solano County. (The black-tailed bumble bees emerge much earlier than the yellow-faced bumble bees.)
Now a Bumble Bee Watch group has launched a website to track bumble bee populations across the U.S. and Canada. This is a collaborative effort among several conservation groups and universities, according to the website and they need your sightings, including photos. As a spokesperson said: "The information will help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees, and help locate rare or endangered populations. They will also help with identification!"
Well, today, I watched one male Bombus vosnesenskii, and he watched me.
My prize? Just enjoying--and appreciating--nature at its finest.
(Note: How can you distinguish a male from a female Bombus vosnesenskii? Said Robbin Thorp: "Boy bumble bees have an one more segment in the antenna and the abdomen than females do. The tip of the abdomen is also more rounded. Male bees do not have any pollen transport structures. In bumble bees, this means that the hind tibia is much more slender than in females which have corbiculae (pollen baskets). In Bombus vosnesenskii there is a second partial yellow band on the abdomen on T-5."
"The most accurate test of female vs male bumble bees, is to pick up a specimen with a bare hand. If you get stung, it is a female, if not, it is a boy bee. Boy bees can't sting, because they have no stinger. But I do not recommend this test unless you already know the answer! :)"
A male yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, appears to be "resting" on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another view of the male yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of the male yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lavender is what it's all about. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Peek-a-bee! The male bumble bee peers over a blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Visiting entomologist May Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, this morning stopped by the haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, to see the bee activity.
Joining her were Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen; bee scientist Brian Johnson, assistant professor of entomology, and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, all of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The garden, planted in the fall of 2009, is located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. It is open year around, from dawn to dusk and maintained by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Berenbaum, who will become the fifth woman president of the 7000-member Entomological Society of America in 2016, saw honey bees foraging on pomegranate and flowering artichoke blossoms and other flowers. Thorp pointed out the Valley carpenter bees, mountain carpenter bees, European wool carder bees, yellow-faced bumble bees and black-tailed bumble bees.
Thorp, who monitors the garden for bees, has found some 85 different species of bees--"and counting"--over the last five years. He began forming baseline data a year before the garden was planted.
The key goals of the garden are to provide bees with a year-around food source, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own. Häagen-Dazs, a premier ice cream brand, generously supports the garden.
The garden design is the work of a Sausalito team which won the international design competition using a series of interconnected gardens with such names as “Honeycomb Hideout,” "Orchard Alley,” "Growers' Circle," “Round Dance Circle” and “Waggle Dance Way." The team: landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki.
The art work in the garden is by the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, co-founded and co-directed by entomologist/associate dean Diane Ullman and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick. Billick also created the six-foot long worker bee sculpture that anchors the garden. The sculpture, which Billick cleverly named "Miss Bee Haven," is of mosaic ceramic.
Berenbaum visited the UC Davis campus May 20-21 to deliver two presentations as part of the Storer Lectureships: "Bees in Crisis: Colony Collapse, Honey Laundering and Other Problems Bee-Setting American Apiculture" on May 20 and "Sex and the Single Parsnip: Coping with Florivores and Pollinators in Two Hemispheres" on May 21. (Click on this link to watch a video of her talk, "Bees in Crisis.")
Berenbaum, a talented scientist, dedicated researcher, dynamic speaker, creative author, and an insect ambassador who wants people to overcome their fear of insects, focuses her research on the chemical interactions between herbivorous insects and their host plants, and the implications of these interactions on the organization of natural communities and the evolution of species.
As as a spokesperson for the scientific community on the honey bee colony collapse disorder, Berenbaum has conducted research, written op-ed essays and testified before Congress on the issue.
The Bee Team: In front are bee scientist Brian Johnson of UC Davis and May Berenbaum, professor and head of Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In back are native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis. The sculpture is by Davis artist Donna Billick. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen points out a honey bee on a pomegranate blossom as entomologist May Berenbaum takes a photo with her cell phone. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Entomologist May Berenbaum moves in for a photo of honey bees on a flowering artichoke. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"It was a bad hair day," quipped native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
Yes, it was.
A very bad hair day.
Thorp was looking at several photos I took April 14 of a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii Radoszkowski, 1862, foraging on rock rose (Cistaceae) at the Petaluma marina. With winds gusting at 18 miles per hour, the lone bumble bee struggled to right itself as the "Flight of the Bumble Bee" turned into "Crash Landings of the Bumble Bee."
This bee, also known as the Vosnesenskii Bumble Bee, was named by Polish entomologist Oktawiusz Wincenty Bourmeister-Radoszkowski (1820-1895) who worked in the Russian empire. It is one of the most common species near the West Coast, write Thorp, Leif Richardson, Sheila Colla and lead author Paul Williams in their newly published book, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide" (Princeton University Press).
Its habitat: open grassy areas, urban parks and gardens, chaparral and shrub areas, and mountain meadows. Indeed, the shrubby area around the Petaluma marina is perfect for bumble-bee habitat.
The authors report that the yellow-faced bumble bee likes a number of plants, including manzanitas (Arctostaphylos), ceanothus (Ceanothus), rabbitbush (Chrysothamnus), thistle (Cirsium), wild buckwheat (Eriogonum), California poppy (Eschscholzia), lupines (Lupinus), phacelia (Phacelia), rhododendrum (Rhododendrum), currants (Ribes), vetch (Vicia), goldenbush (Ericameria), godetia (Clarkia), and gumweed (Grindelia).
This little bumble bee showed a preference for rock rose, but the wind rocked its world.
Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, foraging on rock rose. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gust of wind blows the bumble bee to the next blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Distinguishing characteristic of the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It won't bloom until summer, but already many eyes are on the California buckeye.
The tree's blossoms are poisonous to honey bees. Bees are attracted to them and forage on them, but the end result of the food provisions to the colony can be deformed larval development.
We've seen bee hives within a quarter of a mile of California buckeyes (Aesculus californica). And we've seen honey bees, native bees and other pollinators foraging on the blossoms.
At the recent UC Davis Pollinator Gardening Workshop hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen talked about the poisonous plants. (See PowerPoint presentations.) That led to one workshop participant wondering if the flowers of the California buckeye are poisonous to native bees. (Honey bees are not native; the European colonists brought them to the Jamestown colony, Virginia, in 1622).
Responded Mussen: "My guess: either the native bees that have been in the areas around California buckeye for a long, long time are not poisoned by the pollen or they have been selected (by death of the other genetic types) to avoid the pollen, that eons of natural selection have adapted them to coexist with California buckeye while using their resources."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shared: "We know California buckeye nectar and/or pollen is toxic to honey bees from years of experience with managed hives. Toxicity to native bees and other flower visitors is not so easily determined and to my knowledge has not been investigated. The fact that populations of native bees and butterflies visit California buckeye flowers and continue to persist in areas where the tree is a dominant part of the plant community tends to confirm what Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen says about them. Some good research projects here. So we still do not know if it is the nectar, pollen, or both that may be toxic to honey bees, much less to native flower visitors."
According to gardeningguides.com, the seeds in their raw state are poisonous to humans, but native Americans learned to get around that and use them for food. They pounded the seeds into flour and then cooked the mixture. "This tree had multiple cultural uses among California Indian tribes," the website says. "Many indigenous groups utilized buckeye seeds for food, often when other plant food sources were scarce. These tribes included the Costanoan, Salinan, Kitanemuk, Serrano, Wappo, Sierra Miwok, Coast Miwok, Chumash, Kawaiisu, Northern Maidu among others. The Pomo ate the seeds even when other important food plants were plentiful. The seeds are poisonous to humans in the raw state. Thus, the nuts were cracked open with a rock, the shells removed, the seeds pounded into flour, and their toxic saponins removed in a lengthy leaching process. The meal was subsequently cooked and eaten. There are many different methods for processing and cooking buckeye seeds for food, depending upon the tribe. The seeds have medicinal properties and were cut into pieces, mixed with water, and made into suppositories for hemorrhoids by the Costanoan and Kawaiisu. The Pomo cut bark from the base of the tree and made a poultice, which was laid on a snakebite. Young buckeye shoots were sometimes used as spindles or twirling sticks in fire-making kits of the Sierra Miwok, Northern Maidu, Wappo, Yahi and other tribes. Many tribes mashed buckeye nuts and poured the contents into quiet pools to stupefy or kill fish."
And, no wildlife will eat buckeye seeds except squirrels, such as the California ground squirrel (Citellus beecheyi).
Meanwhile, the poisonous blossoms continue to beckon the honey bees--and their colonies keep producing deformed bees.
Honey bee foraging last May on a California buckeye, which is poisonous to honey bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A California buckeye blooming in May of last year on the UC Davis campus. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)