Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
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.
It's good to see so many people looking for the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may soon list as “endangered” and provide protective status.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor entomology at UC Davis, has been tracking the elusive bumble bee since 1998. Its only known location is in a narrow range in northern California (Siskiyou and Trinity counties) and southern Oregon (Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties).
He's seen it only once since 2006.
But now Robbin Thorp has a "posse" on the lookout for the elusive bumble bee.
After The News-Review, Douglas County, Ore., published a news story and photo of the bumble bee on Sept. 13, nearly two dozen people "called or wrote...to say they thought they had spotted Franklin's bee," wrote reporter John Sowell in the Oct. 12 edition.
Alas, it was not to "bee." Thorp identified the residents' photos as mostly the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
"There are a lot of lookalikes out there," Thorp told Sowell.
Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini (Frison), is mostly black with distinctive yellow markings on the front of its thorax and top of its head. It has a solid black abdomen with just a touch of white at the tip, and an inverted U-shaped design between its wing bases,In contrast, the yellow-faced bumble bee has a yellow face. its thorax and abdomen are mostly black but it has yellow band near the tip of the abdomen.
So, bottom line, if you see a bumble bee with yellow on its face and a yellow band at the tip of the abdomen, it's not our buddy, Franklin's bumble bee.
To check a puzzling identity, email your photo to Robbin Thorp at firstname.lastname@example.org
As Thorp told reporter Sowell: "The more eyes that are looking for it, the better it's going to be."
Franklin's Bumble Bee Still Elusive (Link to PDF of Douglas County Insect Sightings Create Buzz)
Franklin's Bumble Bee May Soon Be Listed as Endangered
Declining Bumble Bee Population Alarming
Robbin Thorp's Bumble Bee Research Yields Dickson Award
Mission to Save Franklin's Bumble Bee
California’s List of Endangered Species
Bumble Bees in Decline (Xerces Society)
Bumble Bees in California (UC Berkeley)
Watch Robbin Thorp's Webinar on bumble bees
Franklin's bumble bee. (Photo by Robbin Thorp)
A yellow-faced bumble bee shares a coneflower with a honey bee at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, is on a mission.
He and fellow members of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation are trying to save Franklin's bumble bee from extinction.
So the news that came out today about this critically imperiled bumble bee was both good and bad.
It's good that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today announced that the petition submitted by Thorp and the Xerces Society in June 2010 to list Franklin’s bumble bee under the National Endangered Species Act has moved to the next step in the process, the 12-month review period. This may lead to an “endangered species” listing and provide protective status.
That's good. But it's bad in that Franklin's bumble bee hasn't been seen since 2006.
It's possible that it may already be extinct but Thorp holds out hope. He's been monitoring the declining population since 1998.
Franklin’s bumble bee, Bombus franklini (Frison), occupies only a narrow range of southern Oregon and northern California. Its range, a 13,300-square-mile area confined to Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California; and Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in Oregon, is thought to be the smallest of any other bumble bee in North America and the world.
Thorp, who maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, sighted 94 of the species in 1998, but only 20 in 1999. The numbers soon began declining drastically (except for 2002):
2000: Nine sightings
2007 through 2011: None.
This year Thorp surveyed the bumble bee's historical sites on five separate trips encompassing several days each: two in June and one each in July, August and September.
Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Franklin's bumble bee, mostly black, has distinctive yellow markings on the front of its thorax and top of its head. It has a solid black abdomen "with just a touch of white at the tip, and an inverted U-shaped design between its wing bases," Thorp said.
Take a close look at his photo of Franklin's bumble bee on a California poppy, the state flower. Let's hope it's not one of the last photos of this unique bumble bee.
Robbin Thorp thinks he'll find it again.
“My experience with the Western bumble bee (B. occidentalis) indicates that populations can remain ‘under the radar’ for long periods of time when their numbers are low,” he said.
Read more about this bumble bee and Thorp's mission on the UC Davis Department of Entomology website.
If you want to see pinned specimens, visit the Bohart Museum of Entomology, 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, UC Davis campus.
Franklin's bumble bee on a California poppy. (Photo by Robbin Thorp)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp of UC Davis with his image of Franklin's bumble bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A good time to photograph the European wool carder bee is in the early morning when it's warming its muscles to prepare for flight.
It lies perfectly still.
That's what it did in our yard last weekend. It warmed itself on the sunny side of a leaf.
Not unlike the sunny side of a street...
The European wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum), so named because the female "cards" or collects plant material to line her nest, is a relative newcomer to the United States. UC Davis research entomologist Tom Zavortink of the Bohart Museum of Entomology says it was accidentally introduced into New York State before 1963.
Writing in a 2008 edition of the Pan-Pacific Entomologist, Zavortink and fellow entomologist Sandra Shanks now of Port Townsend, Wash., pointed out that several papers “have documented its spread from neighboring areas in the northeastern United States and southern Canada” and that the species has since crossed the country. It was confirmed in Colorado in 2005, Missouri in 2006, and Maine, Michigan, Maryland and California (Sunnyvale) in 2007, the entomologists wrote.
The bee is mostly black and yellow. At first glance, its stark markings remind you of a yellowjacket. The females, about the size of a worker honey bee, range in body length from 11 to 13 millimeters, while the males are 14 to 17 mm.
The males can be aggressive in defending their territory, sometimes body-slamming honey bees and other insects to the ground.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says that this kind of contact has a purpose. The male wool carder bee is "merely defending its territory from honey bees and other flying insects to keep the area free of potential competitors that might interfere with its mating opportunities," he says.
One thing's for sure: they do move fast!
Except in the early morning when they're warming their flight muscles...
Wool carder bee sunning itself on a plum leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Side view of a wool carder bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Often you'll hear kindergarten students asking one another: "What's your favorite color?"
Beekeepers do that, too--in a joking sort of way. Some like to rear the blond Italians; some prefer the darker Carniolans, developed from the area of the Carniolan Alps in southeastern Europe; and others opt for the even darker bees, the Caucasians, originating from the Caucasus Mountains of eastern Europe.
It's the desirable traits, not the color, though, that really matters.
"More than 20 breeds of bees have been identified, and many of these have been tested by beekeepers for their ability to live in manmade hives, as well as their adaptability to the moderate climates of the world," writes Bee Culture editor Kim Flottum in his excellent book, The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden.
"Many species," Flottum continues in his book, "have been abandoned by beekeepers because they possess undesirable traits, such as excessive swarming, poor food-storage traits, or extreme nest protection."
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who has a dual appointment with the University of California, Davis and Washington State University, is partial to her New World Carniolans, a bee line she established.
Overall, the Carniolans are known as a good colder-weather bee. The Italians, though, are the most common bee in the United States. Sometimes you'll see an Italian bee so blond it's lemony.
Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, chair of the California State Apiary Board, rears Italians, which leads to good natured-ribbing between her and Cobey about "the best bee."
If you're interested in genetic diversity, mark your calendar for May 2, 2012. Cobey will speak on “Importation of Honey Bee Germplasm to Increase Genetic Diversity in Domestic Breeding Stocks" at her seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis. It's part of a series of seminars that the UC Davis Department of Entomology is sponsoring. Plans are to webcast this; so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, take a look at foraging honey bees in your neighborhood. Like the patchwork coat in the Dolly Parton song, "Coat of Many Colors," you'll see many colors.
Many, many colors. And some belong to young bees with a fuzzy thorax and fresh wings, and some to old bees with a bare thorax and tattered wings.
What's your favorite bee? Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology who maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, says that "beauty is only skin (integument) deep."
"I prefer the ones with a good disposition regardless of their external appearance even on a 'bad hair day,'" Thorp says.
As for me, to paraphrase American humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935), "I've never met a bee I didn't like."
I haven't met any of those highly aggressive, super-defensive Africanized bees, though.
Darker bee and a light-colored bee foraging on sedum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beautifully striped honey bee working the sedum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Caucasian bee (from the Caucasus Mountains) on saliva. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)