Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
Or to put it more precisely, three Bombus melanopygus queens.
Early this morning, in between dark and dawn, three black-tailed bumble bees buzzed around our porch lights. Now, bumble bees don't venture out at night and they certainly don't head for porch lights--they head for flowers in the daytime--so immediately we're hypothesizing an infestation by the parasitoid phorid fly, Apocephalus borealis, aka "zombie fly."
We had earlier heard Professor John Hafernik of San Francisco State University discuss this fly at an entomological meeting in Sacramento.
The female flies lay their eggs in bumble bees, wasps and honey bees. Certainly not a nice thing to do. Eventually the eggs hatch into larvae and emerge from the dead host.
It was Hafernik who discovered that the "zombie fly" infests honey bees. He and his colleagues published their work, "A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly, Apocephalus borealis," in PLOS One in January 2012. They revealed that the parasitized, disoriented honey bees leave their hives at night and head for the lights.
"After being parasitized by the fly, the bees abandon their hives in what is literally a flight of the living dead to congregate near lights," said Andrew Core of the Hafernik lab. 'When we observed the bees for some time—the ones that were alive—we found that they walked around in circles, often with no sense of direction."
Zombies. Or "ZomBees."
Hafernik and crew sounded the alert. They launched a citizen science project called ZomBee Watch, sponsored by the San Francisco State University Department of Biology, the San Francisco State University Center for Computing for Life Sciences and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Fast forward to today...and the three bumble bees buzzing around our porch lights. That erratic, uncharacteristic, porch-light behavior prompted us to take them to native pollinator specialist/bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Thorp is a co-author of the pending Bumble Bees of North America: An identification Guide (Princeton University Press).
It was he who identified them as Bombus melanopygus queens.
Thorp placed them in his "comfy" bumble bee-rearing chamber/observation box in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, provided nourishment (which the ladies accepted gracefully) and now it's wait-and-see.
Phorid flies? Nematodes? Something else? Nothing?
Don't know. However, as of 5 p.m. today, all three are alive.
"Just checked your three fuzzy ladies," Thorp reported. "They are still active and doing well."
In addition to carbohydrates, Thorp gave them a protein patty made by staff research associate/beekeeper Billy Synk, manager of the Laidlaw facility.
"I'll put in a pollen lump or two tomorrow," Thorp said, "to see if any are interested in becoming broody and starting a nest."/span>
The "porch light" bumble bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A little nourishment for this queen bumble bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is the bumble bee-rearing chamber/observation box that Robbin Thorp built. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Several honey bees and at least one lady beetle (ladybug), also discovered the "hot spot" in the garden as the temperatures climbed to 52 degrees.
A bumble bee in Benicia? On Christmas Day? Who would have thought?
This bumble bee species, identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is one of only 250 species worldwide in the genus Bombus. It's native to North America.
Thorp is one of four co-authors of the newly published and long-awaited Bumble Bees of North America: An identification Guide (Princeton University Press). The book is billed as "the first comprehensive guide to North American bumble bees to be published in more than a century." It allows us to identify all the 46 bumble bee species found in North America, and also to learn about "evolutionary relationships, geographical distributions and ecological roles."
Lead author is Paul H. Williams, a research entomologist at the Natural History Museum in London. In addition to Thorp, other co-authors are Leif L. Richardson, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Dartmouth College; and Sheila R. Colla, postdoctoral fellow at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and a project leader at Wildlife Preservation Canada.
Meanwhile, back to Benicia. Like North America's bumble bees, the Benicia Capitol has a rich history. Erected in 1852 and located at 115 West G St., it served as California's third seat of government. Legislators convened there from Feb. 4, 1853 (the year the honey bee was introduced to California) to Feb. 25, 1854.
Today, 160 years later, the Benicia State Capitol is the only surviving pre-Sacramento capitol. Let's hope we can still say that about bumble bees 160 years from now--and the years to come.
Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, heading for jade blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Black-tailed bumble bee targeting jade. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The boys won't be back in town for awhile.
But they will show up. Girls, too.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, and his UC Berkeley-affiliated colleagues, Gordon Frankie, Rollin Coville, Sara Leon Guerrero and Jaime Pawalek, will show you where both the native male and female bees are during their June 4-8 workshop in Hastings Reserve, Carmel Valley, on "California's Native Bees: Biology, Ecology and Identification."
You'll learn how to identify California's native bees by genus and why it's critical to provide ecosystem services in not only wild habitats but in agricultural and urban settings. More than 1600 species comprise California's list of native bees. (And if you're thinking the honey bee is one of them--not! European colonists brought the honey bee to what is now the United States (Virginia) in 1622. The honey bee was introduced in California in 1853.)
If you join the workshop, you'll collect bees in the field at the UC Hastings Reserve and at a nearby diverse garden in Carmel Valley, according to the website. Then you'll also spend time in the lab viewing and keying collected specimens. Evening lectures on a variety of related topics will add to the field experiences. This workshop is an extension of the previously offered weekend bee workshop, with more focus on bee identification."
"Bee collections from the Hastings Reserve date back several decades, so knowledge of important bee-flower relationships are well known for this site. Participants will learn about bees' flower preferences, how to collect bees using several different methods, information on how to build a bee-friendly garden, bee photography techniques, and bee identification using generic keys and microscopes."
Frankie, Thorp, Coville and Barbara Ertter recently co-authored a California bee garden book, expected to be published in the fall of 2014 (Heydon). The working title is "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists."
Of the four authors, Thorp, Frankie and Coville received their doctorates in entomology from UC Berkeley. Errter obtained a doctorate in biology from the City University of New York.
Thorp, who maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, taught a number of courses while on the UC Davis faculty: entomology, natural history of insects, insect classification, California insect diversity, and pollination ecology. Although he retired in 1994, he continues his research on ecology, systematics, biodiversity, conservation, and biology of bees. Thorp is also on the faculty of The Bee Course.
Frankie is a professor of insect biology at UC Berkeley who focuses his research on plant reproductive biology, pollination ecology, and solitary-bee biology. He splits his field research between California and Costa Rica.
Ertter has served as the curator of Western North American Flora, University Herbarium and Jepson Herbarium, UC Berkeley, since 1994. She focuses her research on the flora of western North America.
One thing's for sure: they'll share a wealth of information about native bees at this workshop!
Male leafcutter bee, Megachile fidelis, as identified by Robbin Thorp, on coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Male longhorned bee, Melissodes communis, as identified by Robbin Thorp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Billed as "the first comprehensive guide to North American bumble bees to be published in more than a century," it allows readers, both amateurs and professionals, to identify all 46 bumble bee species found in North America and learn about their ecology, changing geographic distributions, and the endangered and threatened species.
Bumble bees, you know, are among the most recognizable of the world's 20,000 species of bees. The genus, Bombus, has only 250 species. A small number, indeed.
A yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, on tower of jewels. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee and yellow-faced bumble bee sharing a coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Incredible. Absolutely incredible.
The Western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis) seems to be making a comeback of sorts in some parts of the West.
Reporter Michelle Nijhuis, in an Oct. 14th article in High Country News, wrote that this species was "once among the most common bumble bees in the Western United States (and Western Canada)." The population crashed in the 1990s and "all but disappeared from about a quarter of its historic range." Now, she says, it's recently been spotted in parts of Washington and Oregon.
Someone saw six species of the Western bumble bee pollinating blackberries just north of a Seattle.
That's good news indeed.
We remember last year when native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, was searching for the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee in its tiny range in northern California and southern Oregon, when a sole Western bumble bee appeared in front of him and his colleagues from the U.S. Forest Service. It was foraging on buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.) on Mt. Shasta, above 5000 feet.
Thorp and many other scientists fear that the Western bumble bee may go the way of Franklin's bumble bee.
That's why Thorp describes the Seattle find as "very exciting."
"Any finds west of the Sierra-Cascade crest are of prime interest. It is those western populations that took the sharp dive between 1999-2002. They do seem to be increasing, which is indeed encouraging."
"Many populations east of the crest seem to have persisted, through this decline," Thorp noted, "but were not carefully monitored during this time so we don't have the detailed data on their population trends that we would like."
Bombus occidentalis is sometimes called the "white-bottomed bee" due to its distinctive white markings on its abdomen. It is known for pollinating blackberries, cherries, apples and blueberries. It also is "an excellent pollinator of greenhouse tomatoes and cranberries, and has been commercially reared to pollinate these crops," according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation website.
Read about the decline of bumble bees on the Xerces website.
And if you live in the West, keep your eyes open for the Western bumble bee.
This Western bumble bee was found on Mt. Shasta on Aug. 15, 2012. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of Western bumble bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)