Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
It's good to see University of California scientists pursuing rare bumble bees.
The latest news on the bumble bee front: UC Riverside scientists recently rediscovered "Cockerell's Bumble Bee" (Bombus cockerelli Franklin), considered "the rarest of the rare" species of bumble bee in the United States.
It hadn't been seen since 1956. Then, on Aug. 31, 2011 UC Riverside scientists collected the species on weeds along a highway north of Cloudcroft in the White Mountains of south-central New Mexico.
In a Dec. 5th press release, UC Riverside senior museum scientist Douglas Yanega told senior public information officer Iqbal Pittalwala: "Most bumble bees in the U.S. are known from dozens to thousands of specimens, but not this species. The area it occurs in is infrequently visited by entomologists, and the species has long been ignored because it was thought that it was not actually a genuine species, but only a regional color variant of another well-known species."
Fast-forward to UC Davis Department of Entomology where native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, is pursuing the critically imperiled--and maybe extinct--Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini Frison).
Thorp hasn't seen Franklin's bumble bee since 2006. Its range is a 13,300-square-mile area in Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California, and Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in Oregon. Up until now, its habitat was thought to be the smallest of any other bumble bee in the world.
Yanega believes that the range of the Cockerell's bumble bee is the smallest in the world. It's less than 300 square miles, he says.
Davis bumble bee enthusiast Gary Zamzow (he studies and photographs bumble bees and is a volunteer in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis), says the latest find is "an exciting discovery and encouraging news. Gives one hope in finding lost bumble bees."
And an interesting note: Henry James Franklin (1883-1958), who monographed the bumble bees of North and South America in 1912-13, named both of them. Franklin named Cockerell's bumble bee for Theodore Dru Allison Cockerell (1866-1948).
Cockerell’s bumble bee. (Photo by Greg Ballmer, UC Riverside)
The criticallly imperiled Franklin's bumble bee. (Photo by Robbin Thorp, UC Davis)
It's not your average garden variety calendar.
It's absolutely bee-utiful.
Native bees reign supreme in “Garden Variety Native Bees of North America,” a calendar produced by University of California alumni as a benefit for two non-profit organizations.
The perpetual calendar, the work of native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin and entomologist/photographer Rollin Coville, both of the Bay Area, features native bees found throughout North America, including the leafcutter bee, bumble bee and sweat bee.
The macro photography is simply stunning. Through these photos, you can get up close and personal with bees you may never have even noticed. The ultra green sweat bees are especially spectacular.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, provided “considerable insight into the biology and ecology of several native bee genera,” said Ets-Hokin.
Also contributing extensively were UC Berkeley faculty members Gordon Frankie and Claire Kremen. Frankie shared his extensive knowledge of native bees in urban gardens. Kremen provided crucial information on native bee crop pollination services, based on her studies in Yolo County.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Great Sunflower Project, a national pollinator monitoring and conservation program based in San Francisco, and the Portland, Ore-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which protects native bees and their habitat throughout the United States.
Each native bee comes complete with information, such as the genus, common name, pollen/nectar sources, emergence time, nesting habit, and distinguishing characteristics.
For instance, you'll learn that bumble bees are excellent crop pollinators; they pollinate such crops as tomatoes, cranberries and blueberries better than honey bees.
You can attract bumble bees to your own garden by planting such pollen/nectar sources as giant hyssop (Agastache); manzanita (Arctostaphylos), ceanothus (Ceanothus); California poppy (Eschscholzia), sunflower (Helianthus); and beard tongue (Penstemon).
It's all there--all there on the calendar.
Coville, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1978, has been photographing insects and spiders for more than 25 years. He is collaborating with Thorp and Frankie on a number of projects, including a book on urban bees. It's due out next year.
Ets-Hokin, a UC Berkeley zoology graduate, devotes her time to the public awareness and conservation of native bees. For the past several years, she has collaborated with the Alameda County Master Gardeners in establishing a native bee demonstration garden at Lake Merritt, Oakland.
Coville takes many of his images there and now he has Ets-Hokin hooked on photography.
Preview the calendar here. Want to order one or more? Go to the printer's website.
This is one of Rollin Coville's stunning photos of a male green sweat bee, Agapostemon. (Photo by Rollin Coville, used with permission),
The cover of the calendar, "Garden Variety Native Bees of North America." (Photos by Rollin Coville)
If you're interested in native bees, you'll want to read the newly published University of California research article, "Tiny Saviors in Our Backyard."
Native pollinator specialists Robbin Thorp and Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology are featured in the article as is conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley.
Author Erik Vance describes Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, as "the patriarch of a rag-tag group of scientists who have pioneered research on non-honey bees that just may hold a solution to the world’s pollination problems."
Williams' work with conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley involves monitoirng which native bees are effective on Yolo County farms.
It's great to see so much attention on native bees.
As Vance says, "Honey bees get most of the buzz, but some native bees are better at spreading pollen. They may hold the solution to world pollination problems that affect important crops."
Honey bees are often considered "native" bees but they are not. English explorers brought them to America beginning in the 1620s.
The Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, based in Portland, Ore. (and celebrating 40 years of conservation this year), is rightfully pleased with the UC scientists' work.
“The work out at the UC is some of the best work in the country right now,” Mace Vaughan, who oversees national pollinator work for Xerces, told Vance. “They are actually demonstrating the benefits.”
Metallic green sweat bee (Agapostemon texanus) on coneflower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located at 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, UC Davis campus, knows that a Halloween party isn't a party without the appropriate butterfly, ladybug and honey bee costumes.
After all, the museum houses a global collection of more than seven million specimens (and some live insects, including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas).
The Bohart Museum Society party, held tonight (Thursday), drew scores of costumed folks who enjoyed the camaraderie, the refreshments, the gift shop, the specimens and the "live petting zoo." Toward the end, they took time to bash a mosquito pinata, made by Brittany Nelms, a PhD student within the Entomology Graduate Group with a designated emphasis in Vectorborne Diseases. William Reisen of the Center for Vectorborne Diseases, serves as her major professor.
Mosquitoes are meant to be bashed.
UC Davis entomology graduate student Emily Bzdyk arrived as a butterfly, with her face intricately painted. Entomology graduate student Danielle Wishon, who studies with forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey and won the 2011 UC Davis Undergraduate Award in Entomology, selected a maggot theme.
Forensic entomologist Bob Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology dressed in a ghillie suit. And his wife, Lynn, the museum director and professor of entomology? She followed through with an Alcatraz theme (Bob does fly research on Alcatraz and is known as the "Fly Man of Alcatraz.")
When it was all over, Honey Lovers candy donated by Gimbal's Fine Candies of San Francisco, spilled out of the split mosquito pinata as the eager crowd dashed for the goodies.
On Sunday, Oct. 30, the Bohart Museum will host a free pre-Halloween open house for the public. It will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Prizes will be awarded to the best insect costumes (youth and adult divisions) and the best insect tattoo.
And, oh, yes, there will be another blood-sucking mosquito to bash in the form of a pinata.
UC Davis graduate student Emily Bzdyk came dressed as a butterfly. She creates insect jewelry sold at the Bohart.(Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Insect photographer Tom Roach of Lincoln came dressed as a bug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Staff at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine's Center for Equine Health encountered "a strange little bug" that they'd never seen before outside their office Friday on Old Davis Road.
Barbara Meierhenry, senior editor at the Center for Equine Health, described it as "a strange little bug...It was about an inch long, with two rounded body sections covered with 'blond' fuzz, and six legs. He was actually very cute. We have never seen a bug like this before."
She emailed us two cell-phone images taken by Equine Control Officer Laurie Christison.
Enter UC Davis bug experts. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis, quickly identified it as a "female velvet ant (family Mutillidae)."
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, added: "The photo is of a female velvet ant, genus Dasymutilla, family Mutillidae. The females are wingless and parasitize ground-nesting bees. The males are winged. These ants are not commonly seen. They're usually associated with sandy soil, and are mostly active on cloudy days or at night. Males squeak when handled, females have powerful stings, so it's not a good idea to try to handle them."
Meierhenry speculates the velvet ant "may have come here on a hay truck as we had a delivery of hay on Friday. In the years we have both worked here, we have never seen such a creature."
As a side note, renowned insect photographer and ant specialist Alex Wild, based in Illinois, posted a Mutillidae family member on his popular Monday night insect quiz last February. He titled it "What's That Fuzz?" The responders got the genus right: Dasymutilla, but differed somewhat on the species.
For another amazing photo of Dasymutilla, check out Alex Wild's Dasymutilla gloriosa, aka Thistledown Velvet Ant. Talk about a good hair day!
By the way, Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis in 2005, studying with major professor Phil Ward, will return to UC Davis this week to speak on insect photography. His talk is Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. Professor James R. Carey plans to webcast the seminar and post it on UCTV.
It's a good week for bugs!
Equine Control Officer Laurie Christison of the Center for Equine Health captured this cell-phone image of a female velvet ant.
View from above: The female velvet ant by Laurie Christison, UC Davis equine control officer.