Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
When the Antioch Charter Academy, a middle school in Contra Costa County, toured the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis on Tuesday, May 4, they learned all about honey bees and native bees.
Tour coordinator Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator for the Bohart Museum of Entomology set up three activity stations, visited by groups of 13.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, talked to them about bee biology, bee communication and colony collapse disorder; Yang and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, discussed bee diversity, bee monitoring, bee identification and foraging behavior; and to top it off, bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey and Elizabeth Frost displayed bee equipment, discussed the breeding program and then opened several hives.
The students singled out the three castes: queen bee, drones and worker bees. They admired the many different colors of pollen. They gingerly picked up drones (male bees have no stingers).
Then at the urging of Cobey and Frost, the teenagers dipped their fingers into the honey.
Straight from the hive.
Their verdict: "Wow, this is good!"
A taste of honey, a picture of contentment, and a greater admiration for the work of honey bees.
Many Colors of Pollen
A Taste of Honey
That's one of the topics at the next meeting of the Northern California Entomology Society, to be held from 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday, May 6 in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
It promises to be lively.
Matter of fact, the meetings are almost always lively. Entomologists have a keen sense of humor.
Take, for instance, "The Good, the Bad, the Bugly: Controlling Pests in Home Gardens." Baldo Villegas of the California Department of Food and Agriculture will be presenting that talk at 11:15.
Two UC Davis entomologists, James R. Carey (photo above) and Robbin Thorp (photo below), will speak--Carey on the medfly and Thorp on native pollinators.
Carey, a professor of entomology who specializes in insect biodemography and invasion biology, will present his talk on “Insect Invasion Biology: Overview of the General Principles and Case Study of the Medfly in California” at 9:45 a.m.
Thorp, an emeritus professor of entomology who continues his research at his Laidlaw facility office, will discuss "Native Bees as Pollinators” at 10:30 a.m.
Other speakers are
--Ralph Fonseca of the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture, will speak at 1:15 p.m. on “Personal Protective Equipment, Including UC Exemptions.”
--Humberto Izquierdo of the Napa County Department of Agriculture, will give a talk on “European Grapevine Moth Update” at 2 p.m.
A catered lunch will be served at noon. Or, attendees can bring their own lunch. There's still time to attend and/or order lunch if you contact the society's secretary-treasurer, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-0472.
The Northern California Entomology Society seeks new members; you don't have to be an entomologist to join. The group meets three times a year: the first Thursday in February, usually in Sacramento; the first Thursday in May, at UC Davis; and the first Thursday in November in the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District conference room, Concord.
The president is agricultural biologist Matthew Slattengren of the Contra Costa County Department of Agriculture.
And oh, yes, membership dues are only $10 a year.
That's the "good" part of the "The Good, The Bad and the Bugly."
Everybody loves a bumble bee.
Especially the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
And especially a queen.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and first-year entomology graduate student Emily Bzydk collected a few native bees to show visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday.
One of the bumble bees: a regal queen.
When Picnic Day ended, they kindly let me take her home to our tower of jewels (Echium wildprettii), a biennial plant that looks somewhat like a red-jeweled Christmas tree. "Tower of jewels" is indeed a fitting name. It towers (nine-feet high) and it sparkles like rubies.
We placed the lethargic queen on a blossom and fed her honey for quick energy. She quickly sipped about an eighth of a teaspoon, buzzed me twice (Hey, I'm your friend!), returned for more honey, and then took flight.
The queen circled the plant twice and was gone.
From the Bohart Museum display to a showy tower of jewels--all in one day.
Queen Bumble Bee
Flight of the Bumble Bee
Xerces Society scientists just developed a first-of-its-kind conservation strategy summarizing the threats facing native bees in the diverse landscapes of Yolo County and identifying measures to protect them.
And what a great conservation--and conservation--piece this is.
Their 70-page paper, Yolo Natural Heritage Program Pollinator Conservation Strategy, is designed to protect such wild bees as bumble bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, blue orchard bees and others. (You can download the paper from the Xerces Society Web site and from the Yolo Natural Heritage Program Web site.)
“Whether you manage roadsides or run a farm there are actions that you can take to improve the health of pollinators,” says Matthew Shepherd, Xerces Society senior conservation associate and co-author of the report. “Identifying and protecting floral resources can provide significant benefit to the native bees and other pollinators in Yolo County.”
The project, funded in part by a grant from the California Department of Fish and Game, provides land managers with information vital to "save the pollinators" of Yolo County. The county includes six major landscapes: agriculture, grasslands, woodlands, shrubland and scrub, riparian and wetland, and urban and barren.
As the scientists point out, some 60 to 90 percent of the world's flowering plants depend on animals for pollination, and most of these animals are insects.
"Research shows that native bees contribute substantially to the pollination of many crops, including watermelon, canola, sunflower, and tomatoes," the report says. "The value of crop pollination by native, wild bees in the United States is estimated at $3 billion. In Yolo County, extensive studies demonstrate the significant role of native pollinators in the economic viability of agriculture. In addition, native bees provide incalculable value as pollinators of native plants."
Among the many contributors to this report: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and UC Berkeley conservation biologist Claire Kremen, an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
This is a report well-worth reading, and even more importantly, following the measures listed to protect the health of our native bees. These beneficial insects need flowers for foraging and nest sites to raise their young. Some 70 percent of native bee species nest in the ground. Most of the others nest in cavities in trees or plant stems. "Bumble bees require a small cavity such as an abandoned rodent hole," the report indicates.
So, that black-faced bumble bee (Bombus californicus) that you see gathering pollen on a California poppy may go home to...well...a rat hole.
All the more reason to become more observant and pro-active of their needs.
Black-Faced Bumble Bee
Folks accustomed to seeing only honey bees (which are non-natives) buzzing around their yard probably aren't aware that in the United States alone there are some 4000 identified species of native bees.
And they probably aren't aware of The Bee Course.
That's a workshop offered for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees. It's held annually in Portal, Ariz. in the Chiricahua Mountains at the Southwest Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). This year's dates are Aug. 22-Sept. 1.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and active in the Xerces Society, has taught at The Bee Course since 2002.
The course, led by Jerry Rozen of AMNH, has been operating continuously since 1999, Thorp said, and UC Davis graduates are very much involved. Steve Buchmann who received his Ph.D. at UC Davis in 1978, is one of the instructors. Ron McGinley who received his undergraduate degree at UC Davis, does most of the initial student contact and scheduling for the course, Thorp said.
"There are usually about eight instructors and 22 participants for the 10- day course," Thorp said. "Most of the time is spent in the lab identifying bees to genus. At least three days are spent in the field so students can see various bees doing their thing, collect them and bring them back to the lab to ID them. It is a great experience for students to interact with instructors and especially with their peers from round the world."
"Instructors all donate their time to teach in the course, but benefit from the chance to get together with colleagues and a new cohort of interesting students each year. Every class is different--that is, it takes on its own personality--and each student brings something new and different to the mix."
More locally, Thorp will speak Sunday, March 7 on the amazing diversity of native bees at the 2010 Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Santa Rosa-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP). He'll discuss their nesting habits and nest site requirements. The symposium takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Subud Center, 234 Hutchins Ave., Sebastopol.
The fourth annual conference will offer updates and new perspectives on honey bees and native pollinators, according to PFSP executive director Kathy Kellison.
It's good to see the focus on native bees as well as honey bees. For more information on native bees, be sure to check out the Xerces Society Web site and UC Berkeley's Native Bee Gardens.
Yolo County Bee Collection
Metallic Green Sweat Bee