Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
They're populating the sandy cliffs of Bodega Head, Sonoma County. A sure sign of their presence: dense clusters of turrets.
When they're not foraging among the wild radish (genus Raphanus), lupine (genus Lupinus) and other plants, these ground-dwelling bees are digging nests and rearing their young.
"The female sucks up fresh water from nearby, stores it in her crop--like honey bees store nectar--for transport to the nest," said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
"She regurgitates it on the sandstone, and excavates the moistened soil," he said. "She carries out the mud and makes the entrance turret with it."
The digger bees are sometimes referred to as "alternative pollinators," but they're all members of the Apidae family, which includes honey bees (the super pollinators), bumble bees, carpenter bees, sunflower bees, orchid bees, cuckoo bees and the like.
Building a Nest
If you like to take photos of insects that are as small as a grain of rice, then you'll love--absolutely love--stalking a sweat bee.
Sweat bees, members of the worldwide family Halictinae and order Hymenoptera, are so-named because they are attracted to human perspiration or "sweat." They probably lap up perspiration because of the salt content, according to Christopher O'Toole and Anthony Raw, authors of Bees of the World.
The most important of the many genera, the authors say, are Halictus and Lasioglossum, which are common to both the Old World and New World.
Speaking of common, Halictus is also common in bee friendly gardens and swimming pools. Ever gone for a swim and feel a tiny insect sting you? It may have been a sweat bee. ("Their sting is only rated a 1.0 on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, making it almost painless," according to Wikipedia.)
O'Toole and Raw point out that some sweat bees are only 4mm long, which is why they can be easily overlooked and so difficult to identify.
What's unique are about these ground-nesting bees? The females of all species of sweat bees mate before winter. "This means that, unlike female solitary bees of other families, those of halictids do not have to mate before founding a nest in the spring," they write.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, identified this little pollen-packing sweat bee (below) as a female sweat bee, Halictus tripartitus.
She was nectaring a tower of jewels (Echium wildprettii) in our yard and packing a heavy load of blue pollen she'd gathered from the plant.
The tower of jewels is native to the Canary Islands. So, if you visit the Canary Islands, you can probably see--and photograph--this little sweat bee there, too.
Ever heard of a polyester bee?
We encountered a plasterer or "polyester" bee on a recent trip to Bodega Bay.
A female Colletes fulgidus longiplumosus, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, was foraging on a seaside daisy (Erigeron) along a sandy cliff off Bodega Head, Sonoma County.
She was covered in pollen.
The common name, polyester bee (family Colletidae), refers to the cellophane-like polyester material females secrete to line their burrows, Thorp said. These bees, he noted, nest in the same cliff faces with Anthophora bomboides stanfordiana (a faux bumble bee), but do not have turrets. A polyester membrane “doggy door" guards the nest entrances.
Worldwide, there are more than 20,000 identified species of bees.
The polyester bee is one of them.
It's good to see so much interest in bees.
When folks think of bees, they usually think "honey bees." However, our European or western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is one of a total of seven species of honey bees found throughout the world.
Worldwide, there are some 20,000 described species of bees.
University of California scientists Robbin Thorp, Gordon Frankie and Ellen Zagory will be discussing a few of them in their "Buzz About Bees" program on Saturday, June 5 at the Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen, Calif.
Thorp is a native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who continues to do research. Frankie is a professor and research entomologist at the UC Berkeley Division of Insect Biology. Zagory is director of horticulture, UC Davis Arboretum.
The registration deadline for this session, a science discussion about the "plight of Sonoma County's pollnators," closed May 28 but Thorp and Frankie continue to call attention to the plight of the pollinators. They talk about bumble bees, cuckoo bees, blue orchard bees, sweat bees and the like. Some bees are defined by what they do: leafcutters, masons and miners.
And Zagory is an expert on plants, especially ornamental plants. One has only to walk through the UC Davis Arboretum--or ask her to identify a plant--to confirm that!
We hope the "buzz about bees" continues to draw widespread interest.
Honey Bee on Lavender
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee
Those yellow-faced bumble bees know how to put on a happy face.
The males and females frequent our bee friendly garden to sip the sweet nectar of lavender, catmint and rock purslane. The females collect both nectar and pollen for their brood.
I think we have a nest of them beneath the catmint.
Plant it, and they will come.
The yellow-faced bumble bee (Bombus vosnesenskii), as its name implies, has a yellow face, a mostly black thorax and abdomen, and a yellow band near the tip of its abdomen.
The ones below are males, according to native pollinator specialist and noted bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. Although officially "retired" (not!), he continues to do research on bumble bees and other pollinators.
Thorp also monitors the half-acre Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis for bee species.
It's a treat to see the bumble bees there.
It's a treat to see them anywhere.
You gotta love those bumble bees.
Bumble Bee and Honey Bee
Sip of Nectar
From the Back
Put on a Happy Face