Backyard Orchard News
You may also have heard that during the two-hour program (free and open to the public), Thorp will share his extensive knowledge of bees and discuss their role as pollinators.
What you may not have heard is that Robbin Thorp is the newly selected recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award, a high honor, indeed. And richly deserved.
Robbin Thorp, known as a tireless advocate of native bees, especially bumble bees, will be presented the award at a luncheon hosted next month by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.
“Professor Thorp has had an outstanding professional career in the area of pollination ecology and systematics of honey and bumble bees,” said Lyn Lofland, president of the Executive Committee of the UC Davis Emeriti Association. “He has continued his professional contributions since he retired publishing both scientific papers and books. He has continued to teach and guide graduate students providing them with the benefit of his vast experience and knowledge. He also provides expert taxonomic services, identifying thousands of native bee specimens. He has coupled this effort with training numerous field assistants. Professor Thorp matched perfectly with the criteria established for the Distinguished Emeriti Award."
Thorp said it's a great honor to be named a distinguished emeritus. "It is an extra pleasure to be recognized for doing what I love and enjoy."
Thorp, who joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 1964 and achieved emeritus status in 1994, is a state, national and global authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, contribution of native bees to crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
Since his retirement, he has compiled an exemplary record for his research, teaching, publications, presentations, and advisement services, sharing his expertise with local, statewide, national and international audiences. In his retirement, he has published 68 papers and is the first author on 15 publications. He received several prestigious awards: the 2013 outstanding team award, with several colleagues, from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, and the 2010-2011 Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship, UC Davis. Thorp is the North American regional co-chair for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bumblebee Specialist group. He is a member of 10 professional societies, including the International Society of Hymenopterists.
Thorp chaired the Jepson Prairie Advisory Committee at UC Davis from 1992-2011 (which includes seven years after his retirement). He is still active as a docent leading tours during the tour season. He is also involved in training new docents by providing information on the native bees that pollinate vernal pool flowers.
Thorp spends much of his time in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses collections critical to his bee identification work. He identifies species and regularly volunteers at the open houses and other event.
Thorp is an integral part of The Bee Course, an annual 10-day workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Field Station near Portal, Ariz. He has taught there since 2002 (the instructors are all volunteers), and even though he is 81 years young, he plans to continue teaching there.
In an email conversation, colleague James Cane of the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit, Utah State University, Logan, said it well: “Dr. Robbin Thorp should be the first scientist to be cloned, so valuable and broadly integrated are his knowledge about bees and pollination. No one else I know has his combination of skills; normally several people would be needed. Thus, he is a taxonomist of several genera of bees, a competent pollination biologist studying both native bees and honey bees in both natural and agricultural realms (with research experience in several crops), and a conservation advocate for bees. Moreover, I have watched his considerable teaching skills while helping in The Bee Course over the years. There I also get to see what a model human being Robbin is: thoughtful, considerate, a great listener, playful, polite unpretentious, all traits that the students gravitate toward. I have looked to Robbin as a role model for over 30 years, listen carefully to what he has to say, and always look forward to being in his presence. UC Davis is very lucky indeed to have attracted and retained such a fabulous faculty member.”
Colleague Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley credits Thorp with not only identifying more than 100,000 bees for her research since his retirement in 1994, but helping her with research protocol and helping her graduate students identify bees. “Dr. Thorp has contributed in three main ways. First, he has provided expert input into the design of protocols for the research, including assays for pollinator effectiveness, developing citizen science methods, rearing experimental bumble bee colonies, monitoring bumble bee colony properties in the field, and developing pollinator survey methods. Second, he has provided expert taxonomic services, including personally identifying over 100,000 native bee specimens that we have collected during this work, and working with us to develop a bee traits database. Third, he has trained numerous field assistants and graduate students from my lab in different aspects of bee biology. He's spent long hours with many of my graduate students helping them learn to identify bees. He also helped us develop methods and information sheets for teaching field and lab teams to recognize key generic and family characters for identifying bees in the field and sorting them in the lab. He's advised many of my graduate students on different aspects of their work.”
Said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis: “I have to say that Robbin has been phenomenal. He is more active in research and outreach every year. Regardless of what task is presented to him he is engaged and brings all his experience and knowledge to bear. I don't know many line faculty who are as active in their fields as Robbin is as a retiree. He is always available for museum events and loves to work with the public, particularly kids. I don't know of many pollination ecologists or bee systematists with his level of knowledge.”
Entomologist Katharina Ullmann, who received her doctorate in 2014 from UC Davis, says that Robbin Thorp is “one of the few people in North America who can identify bees down to the species level. As a result he's in high demand and has identified thousands of specimens for numerous lab groups since his retirement. However, he doesn't just identify the specimens. Instead, he's willing to patiently work through dichotomous keys with you so that you can learn those skills. His ongoing monitoring projects, work as an IUCN specialist, and recent books on bumble bee identification and guide to the bees of California show his commitment to the broader impacts of his research.”
Around the UC Davis campus, Thorp is known as a tireless advocate for pollinator education and outreach. He is often called upon by the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden (both part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology), the UC Davis Arboretum and the California Center for Urban Horticulture to participate in their public outreach forums and events.
He spends countless hours connecting people of all ages to the world of insects, especially the pollinators like bumble bees. One of his research projects is monitoring the native bee activity in our department's bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden, work that he has done since 2008. In addition, he frequently presents talks at UC Davis and afield, to diverse audiences including UC Master Gardeners, beekeeper groups, and schoolchildren.
Thorp, who calls Michigan his home state, received both his bachelor's degree and master's degree in zoology from the University of Michigan. He received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1964.
Previous recipients of the distinguished award:
2014: Tom Cahill, professor emeritus, physics
2013: Eldredge Moores, professor emeritus, geology
2012: Alex McCall, professor emeritus and former dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
2011: Charles Hess, professor emeritus and dean emeritus, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
2008: M. Wayne Thiebaud, emeritus professor, art
Congratulations, Robbin Thorp! Scientist, researcher, author, professor, teacher, and a longtime public advocate for the bees!
P. S. Can we clone him now, as Jim Cane suggested?
Robbin Thorp with two books he co-authored in 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Professor Robbin Thorp with students from The Bee Course. He is in the third row (far right, standing).
Bee Course instructors from 2013 are (from left) Laurence Packer, York University, Toronto; Terry Griswold, USDA Bee Lab, Logan UT; Steve Buchmann, Tucson, AZ; Robbin Thorp; John Ascher, University of Singapore; Jim Cane, USDA Bee Lab, Logan, UT; Eli Wyman, American Museum of Natural History, NY. Not pictured: Jerome G. Rozen, Jr., AMNH, Course Leader who was unable to participate that year.
It was just a matter of time before the so-called "super mosquito" surfaced, resulting in the failure of insecticide-treated nets to provide meaningful control from malaria in some localities in Africa.
"It's a ‘super' with respect to its ability to survive exposure to the insecticides on treated bed nets,” said medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro, director of the Vector Genetics Laboratory at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, who led the research team.
He and his colleagues recently discovered that interbreeding of two malaria mosquito species in the West African country of Mali, has resulted in “a super mosquito” hybrid that's resistant to insecticide-treated bed nets.
Anopheles gambiae, a major malaria vector, is interbreeding with isolated pockets of another malaria mosquito, A coluzzii.
The research, published in “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “provides convincing evidence indicating that a man-made change in the environment--the introduction of insecticides--has altered the evolutionary relationship between two species, in this case a breakdown in the reproductive isolation that separates them,” said Lanzaro, a professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Veterinary Medicine.
Lanzaro and his "blood brother" medical entomologist Anthony Cornel of the Department of Entomology and Nematology have been researching mosquitoes in Mali since 1991.
Lanzaro called the need to develop new and effective malaria vector control strategies "urgent.”
Said Lanzaro: "A number of new strategies are in development, including new insecticides, biological agents--including mosquito killing bacteria and fungi--and genetic manipulation of mosquitoes aimed at either killing them or altering their ability to transmit the malaria parasite. These efforts need to be stepped up.”
The paper is titled “Adaptive Introgression in an African Malaria Mosquito Coincident with the Increase Usage of Insecticide-Treated Bed Nets.” First author is Laura Norris, then a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology who was supported by a National Institutes of Health T32 training grant awarded to Lanzaro. Norris has since accepted a position with the President's Malaria Initiative in Washington, D.C.
In addition to Lanzaro and Cornel, the co-authors include Yoosook Lee and Travis Collier of the Vector Genetics Lab and the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology; and Abdrahamane Fofana of the Malaria Research and Training Center at the University of Bamako, Mali. Three grants from the National Institutes of Health funded the research.
Medical entomologist Laura Norris (right side of table, second from top) works with a night's catch of mosquitoes in Mali.
UC Davis medical entomologist Anthony Cornel (left) emerges from a hut in Mali.
Bruce Hammock a distinguished entomology professor at the University of California, Davis, began his career trying to figure out how to control pests. Now he's making news with his potent enzyme inhibitor that dramatically reduces inflammation, inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain.
He couldn't have been more pleased or proud when a colleague in Spain published ground-breaking research on diabetes using the Hammock-discovered soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) inhibitor.
Researchers in the Joan Clària laboratory at the University of Barcelona, Spain, discovered that diabetes can be prevented and reversed, at least in genetically obese mice.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that when the sEH inhibitor was used in mice with a high level of omega-3 fats, the treatment both prevented the onset of diabetes and reversed the effects of diabetes in obese mice. Clària is an associate professor at the Barcelona University School of Medicine and a senior consultant at the Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Service of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona.
“Our previous studies show the drug we are working on will reduce the symptoms of diabetes in mice by itself,” Hammock said, “but the excitement about Joan Clària's work is that if the mice have a genetically increased level of omega-3 fatty acids--the drug offers prevention or cure in mice.”
This is breaking news that we hope will lead to targeting diabetes in humans. Worldwide, some 347 million people have diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 29.1 million Americans or 9.3 percent of the population have diabetes, either diagnosed or undiagnosed.
Hammock explained that the epoxide metabolites of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA are stabilized by inhibiting sEH, "and these metabolites contribute a great deal to the beneficial effects of an omega-3 diet." Previous UC Davis research in the laboratories of Bruce Hammock, Nipavan Chiamvimonvat, Robert Weiss, Anne Knowlton and Fawaz Haj showed that the enzyme reduces or reverses such diabetes-linked medical issues as renal failure, hypertension, diabetic pain, hardening of the arteries, and heart failure.
In the paper, titled “Inhibition of Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase Modulates Inflammation and Autophagy in Obese Adipose Tissue and Liver: Role for Omega-3 Epoxides,” Clària described the administration of the sEH inhibitor as “a promising strategy to prevent obesity-related co-morbidities.” Technically, the study “demonstrates that stabilization of cytochrome P-450 epoxides derived from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids through inhibition of the inactivating enzyme soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) exerts beneficial actions in counteracting metabolic disorders associated with obesity, including insulin resistance and fatty liver disease,” Clària said.
Clària said the study also “sheds more light on the role of sEH in cellular homeostasis by providing evidence that omega-3 epoxides and sEH inhibition regulate autophagy and endoplasmic reticulum stress in insulin-sensitive tissues, especially the liver.”
Cristina López-Vicario was the first-author of the research paper. In addition to Clària and Hammock, other co-authors were José Alcaraz-Quiles, Verónica García-Alonso, Bibiana Rius, Aritz Lopategi, Ester Titos and Vicente Arroyo, all of the Clària lab or associates; and Sung Hee Hwang of the Hammock Lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center
Hammock has worked on the mechanism of hydrolytic enzymes and their effect on human health for more than 35 years. He is developing both enzyme inhibitors and natural products as drugs for use in the United States and developing countries. His work has helped identify new targets for the action of drugs and other compounds to improve health and predict risk from various environmental chemicals.
Hammock is the founder and CEO of EicOsis, and through EicOsis, the compounds are in clinical trials for companion animals and the Pre-Investigational New Drug Application (Pre-IND) Consultation Program for neuropathic pain in human diabetics.
Hammock was recently selected a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He directs the campuswide Superfund Research Program and National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program.
Entomologist Bruce Hammock in his office in Briggs Hall. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If there's one thing that entomologists hate, it's journalists who mistake a fly for a bee.
To entomologists, it's like mistaking a referee for a football player (well, they are on the same playing field) or a model airplane for a Lear jet (well, they do share the same sky) or a Volkswagen for a Ferrari (well, they do share the same road).
No. No. No.
Fact is, some journalists are so busy meeting deadlines that they don't stop and smell the flowers--or see what's foraging on them.
It's not just the news media. Lately we've been seeing dozens of drone flies (Eristalis tenax) masquerading as honey bees (Apis mellifera) in stock photo catalogs, on Facebook and Flickr pages, and on honey bee websites. Last week an environmental friendly organization attacked a pesticide company for killing bees but posted a photo of a fly instead of a bee on its website. Another faux pas: a fly showed up on the cover of the celebrated book, Bees of the World.
Gee, if it visits flowers, it must be a bee, right? Wrong. Not all floral visitors are bees.
If it's a pollinator, it must be a bee, right? Wrong. Flies can be pollinators, too.
If it visits flowers, pollinates flowers, and is about the size of a honey bee, it's a honey bee, right? Wrong. Those three descriptions fit drone flies, too.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
Bottom line: if you're not sure if it's a fly or a bee, contact an entomologist near you.
A drone fly, Eristalis tenax (left), and a syrphid fly. They're from the same family, Syrphidae, and are often mistaken for honey bees.. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee collecting pollen. Lower right: a freeloader fly.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly. Note the setae or bristle on the head. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Say you're a caterpillar or an aphid and a wasp comes along and lays her eggs inside you. Her eggs will hatch and then her offspring will eat their way out. You, the host, are no more. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
If you visit the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Sunday, Jan. 11 on the University of California, Davis, campus, you'll learn all about parasitoids.
The fun, educational and family-friendly event is themed, "Parasitoid Palooza!" Free and open to the public, it takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane,
"Most everyone knows that mantids eat other insects or that ladybird beetles (lady bugs) consume lots of aphids, but there is another way insects eat other insects," commented Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
"An insect parasitoid is a species whose immatures live off of one insect host, usually eating it from the inside out," she said. "It is part of their life cycle and the host dies. This sounds like a weird way to make a living, but there are more species of parasitoids than there are insects with any other single kind of life history. The movie Alien with Sigourney Weaver co-opts this phenomenon, but in reality there are no parasitoids on humans or other vertebrates."
The Bohart open house will spotlight this unusual life cycle. Wasps, flies and beetles are parasitoids to many different insect groups.
Senior museum scientist and collections manager Steve Heydon, is a world authority on Pteromalids, or jewel wasps, a group of tiny parasitoids, and will be on hand to talk about them.
Live parasitoids from the lab of Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomolology and Nematology will be showcased. They include Encarsa, Eretmocerus, Diglyphus and Aphidius.
"Parasitoid Palooza" promises to be a fun and wacky celebration of the diversity of life, Yang said. A family-friendly craft activity with balloons inside of balloons (representing parasitoids) is planned.
Before you go, be sure to check out Wired.Com's piece on a wasp from the genus Glyptapantele laying eggs in a caterpillar. Tachinid flies also provide biological control services, laying their eggs in a number of insects, including beetles, moths, sawflies, earwigs and grasshoppers.
Along with parasitoids, visitors will see some "teddy bear" bees or male Valley carpenter bees, to be shown by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Allan Jones of Davis, a noted insect photographer, delivered some to Thorp's office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility last week. Their origin? A friend's felled apple tree in Davis. The tree had rotted and male and female Valley carpenter bees were wintering inside.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Open houses, focusing on specific themes, are held on weekends throughout the academic year.
The remaining schedule of open houses:
- Sunday, Feb. 8: “Biodiversity Museum Day,” noon to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, March 14: “Pollination Nation,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, April 18: UC Davis Picnic Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Sunday, May 17: “Name That Bug! How About Bob?” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, July 18: “Moth Night,” 8 to 11 p.m.
More information is available by contacting Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at email@example.com or (530) 752-0493.
A wasp (family Aphidiinae) parasitizing an aphid. (Photo by Fran Keller, who received her doctorate in entomology this year from UC Davis.)