Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
Congrats to “The Bee Team” at the University of California, Davis.
The one-of-a-kind team, comprised of five Department of Entomology faculty members, received the coveted team award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA), for their collaborative work specializing in honey bees, wild bees and pollination issues through research, education and outreach.
Their service to UC Davis spans 116 years.
The “Bee Team” is comprised of Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen; systematist/hymenopterist Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology who coordinated the development and installation of a landmark bee friendly garden; and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology; pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology who specializes in pollination and bee biology; and biologist/apiculturist Brian Johnson, assistant professor of entomology who specializes in bee communication, bee behavior and bee health.
PBESA represents 11 states, seven U.S. territories, and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Thorp, who retired from the university in 1994, continues to work full-time on behalf of the bees, and has tallied 49 years of service to UC Davis. Mussen, who will retire in June of 2014, has provided 37 years of service; Kimsey, 24; Williams, 4 and Johnson, 2.
“The collaborative team exceptionally serves the university, the state, the nation, and indeed the world, in research, education and public service,” wrote nominator Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology. “The Bee Team is really the ‘A’ team; no other university in the country has this one-of-a-kind expertise about managed bees, wild bees, pollination, bee health, bee identification, and bee preservation. Honey bee health is especially crucial. Since 2006 when the colony collapse disorder surfaced, we as a nation have been losing one-third of our bees annually. Some beekeepers are reporting 50 to 100 percent winter losses. The importance of bees cannot be underestimated: one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees.”
Among those lending support to The Bee Team through letters were the Mary Delany, interim chair of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; AnnMaria "Ria" de Grassi, director of federal policy, California Farm Bureau Federation; Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m. and the Almond Board of California Task Force Liaison; and Mace Vaughn, pollinator conservation program director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
The Bee Team (from left) Eric Mussen, Neal Williams, Robbin Thorp, Lynn Kimsey and Brian Johnson. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's good to see that the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and noted bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp of UC Davis have filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Endangered Species Act protection for the beleagured rusty-patched bumble bee.
They previously filed a petition to save Franklin's bumble bee, a bumble bee known to inhabit a small area of southern Oregon and northern California. Thorp has been monitoring Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini) since 1998 but hasn't seen it since August 2006 when he detected one at Mt. Ashland.
In a recent press release, the Xerces Society related that the rusty-patched bumble bee, (Bombus affinis), "has disappeared from 87 percent of its historic range (which once included 25 states). Where it is still found, this bee is much less abundant than it was in the past."
“The charismatic and once common rusty patched bumble bee has suffered severe and widespread declines throughout its range in the eastern U.S. since 1997," Thorp said. "The few scattered recent sightings thanks to intensive searches are encouraging, but the species is in critical need of federal protection.”
Why has the population of the rusty-patched bumble bee declined? Good question, and one with no fully determined answer, according to Thorp and Sarina Jepsen, the Xerces Society's endangered species program director.
"However, in related bumble bees that also are declining, researchers at the University of Illinois have recently found higher levels of a fungal pathogen and lower levels of genetic diversity," Jepson wrote in a press release. "Notably, the rusty-patched bumble bee was too scarce in the landscape to be included in these analyses."
"The leading hypothesis," Jepson says, "suggests that this fungal pathogen was introduced from Europe by the commercial bumble bee industry in the early 1990s, and then spread to wild pollinators. Although it has not been proven, the hypothesis is supported by the timing, speed and severity of the decline—a crash in laboratory populations of bumble bees occurred shortly before researchers noticed a number of species of formerly common bumble bees disappearing from the wild."
Meanwhile, we hope that Bombus affinis doesn't go the way of Bombus franklini.
As the Xerces Society's press release points out: "Pollinators are critical components of our environment and essential to our food security—providing the indispensable service of pollination to more than 85 percent of flowering plants and contributing to one in three bites of the food that we eat. Bumble bees are among the most widely recognized and well understood group of native pollinators in North America and contribute to the pollination of food crops such as squash, melon, blueberry, cranberry, clover, greenhouse tomato and greenhouse pepper, as well as numerous wildflowers."
The Xerces Society, an international organization founded in 1971 and headquartered in Portland, Ore., is a nonprofit organization that "protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat" and "is at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp of UC Davis is a nationally known expert on bumble bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This photo of the rusty-patched bumble bee is the 2012 work of Christy Stewart at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy in Wisconsin.
The bush germander (Teucrium fruticans) is definitely a great fall-winter plant that's a magnet for bees. Just look at the bees that frequent the germander in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis.
As soon as the temperature rises to a sunny 50 or 55 (good bee-flying weather), the honey bees head over to the haven from the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility.
Last Saturday's visit to the haven yielded an "out-to-lunch" bunch that included a dozen honey bees in the germander and one syrphid fly (aka flower fly or hover fly). Bumble bee aficionado Gary Zamzow, one of the volunteers in the haven, found something better: A bumble bee, a queen Bombus melanopygus or black-tailed bumble bee, foraging in the germander.
The germander bush is one of several plants blooming in the haven in the dead of winter, according to Missy Borel, haven volunteer and program manager of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis. Among the others blooming or just finishing a bloom:
- Autumn sage (Salvia greggii)
- Blanket flower (Gallardia)
- Bulbine (Bulbine frutescens)
- Butterfly rose (Rosa mutabilis)
- Catmint (Nepeta)
- Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii)
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis)
- Red hot poker (Kniphofia)
- Dwarf plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Betty Rollins’ )
- Lavender (Lavandula)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus)
- Sage (salvia)
- Seaside daisies (Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick')
"Honey bees in California will seek forage on warm sunny days in California," Thorp noted. "Some Asteraceae and mint family flowers will continue blooming and provide some food for honey bees, but they primarily rely on their stored honey to get them through the winter."
Honey bee foraging in bush germander. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly, visiting germander. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
So you want to learn about native bees...
Be sure to attend Robbin Thorp's presentation on "Buzzed for Bees" on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 19 at the Rush Ranch Nature Center, Suisun.
Thorp, a native pollinator specialist and an emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, will share his knowledge about bees in a two-hour presentation from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Rush Ranch Educational Council and the Solano Land Trust.
Thorp, a noted authority on native bees in vernal pools, the ecology of bumble bees, and honey bee pollination, will talk about the importance of native bees as crop pollinators and encourage folks to provide for them. He will display bee specimens, including bumble bees, sweat bees, and carpenter bees.
Thorp, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1964 "officially" retired in 1994, but unofficially, he didn't. He continues to do research, write publications, and deliver lectures. He maintains his office/lab at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
He teaches at The Bee Course, an annual workshop held at the annual Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. It draws conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
Thorp is also co-authoring a book on urban bees and is a docent and instructor at the Solano Land Trust's Jepson Prairie Reserve.
One of his numerous research projects is monitoring the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden and demonstration garden planted south of the Laidlaw facility. Over the last several years, he has found and identified more than 75 bee species in the haven. California has some 1600 species of native bees. Globally, there are more than 20,000.
So, attend the "Buzzed for Bees" presentation and ask him how you, too, can help promote bee health. You won't find anyone more knowledgeable or more passionate about bees than Robbin Thorp.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A male sweat bee, Halictus tripartitus, as identified by Robbin Thorp. It is leaving a California golden poppy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What an unexpected find!
It was the first day of 2013 and what did we see: a queen bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, aka black-tailed bumble bee.
Like scores of others, we decided to take a walk on Jan. 1 in the Benicia State Recreation Area. Located in Solano County, just outside the city of Benicia, the 447-acre park on State Park Road offers a view of the Carquinez Strait amid lush grasslands, rocky beaches and a marsh filled with cattails about to lose their charm as they go to seed.
It's a good place to walk, run, cycle, and engage in picnicking, fishing, and bird watching.
And bee watching.
When the temperature hits 55 degrees, it's common to see honey bees foraging among eucalyptus, manzanita and wild mustard this time of year.
In mid-morning, Jan. 1, the temperature registered 50 degrees. No honey bees did we see. But as we stopped to admire the manzanita in the native plant garden, we spotted her: a black-tailed queen bumble bee, as later identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor, UC Davis Department of Department.
"Yes, a queen of Bombus melanopygus, earliest of our bumble bees to emerge from hibernation and start nests each year," Thorp said. "I had heard that some were flying in December in the Bay Area. Keep an eye out for the first workers or first queens with pollen loads. Those will be the signs that nests have been established. Otherwise, seeing queens out on a nice sunny warm day, even sipping nectar, may mean that they are just stretching their wings and checking things out between naps, before getting down to the serious business of starting a new nest."
This species of bumble bee is native to western North America and is found from California to British Columbia and as far east as Idaho. "In the southern part of its range, the third and fourth segments of the abdomen are black instead of the red color seen in the northern populations, and this black color form was formerly known by the name Bombus edwardsii," according to Wikipedia.
Now it's Bombus melanopygus.
Soon we saw that we were not alone. Several other queen bumble bees quietly appeared, all to sip the sweet nectar of manzanita on the first day of 2013.
Soon we expect to see them with a load of pollen.
A queen black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, heading for manzanita blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Long tongue of the queen bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, sipping nectar from manzanita. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Queen bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, in flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)