Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp
Everybody loves a bumble bee.
Especially the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
And especially a queen.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and first-year entomology graduate student Emily Bzydk collected a few native bees to show visitors at the Bohart Museum of Entomology during UC Davis Picnic Day last Saturday.
One of the bumble bees: a regal queen.
When Picnic Day ended, they kindly let me take her home to our tower of jewels (Echium wildprettii), a biennial plant that looks somewhat like a red-jeweled Christmas tree. "Tower of jewels" is indeed a fitting name. It towers (nine-feet high) and it sparkles like rubies.
We placed the lethargic queen on a blossom and fed her honey for quick energy. She quickly sipped about an eighth of a teaspoon, buzzed me twice (Hey, I'm your friend!), returned for more honey, and then took flight.
The queen circled the plant twice and was gone.
From the Bohart Museum display to a showy tower of jewels--all in one day.
Queen Bumble Bee
Flight of the Bumble Bee
Xerces Society scientists just developed a first-of-its-kind conservation strategy summarizing the threats facing native bees in the diverse landscapes of Yolo County and identifying measures to protect them.
And what a great conservation--and conservation--piece this is.
Their 70-page paper, Yolo Natural Heritage Program Pollinator Conservation Strategy, is designed to protect such wild bees as bumble bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, blue orchard bees and others. (You can download the paper from the Xerces Society Web site and from the Yolo Natural Heritage Program Web site.)
“Whether you manage roadsides or run a farm there are actions that you can take to improve the health of pollinators,” says Matthew Shepherd, Xerces Society senior conservation associate and co-author of the report. “Identifying and protecting floral resources can provide significant benefit to the native bees and other pollinators in Yolo County.”
The project, funded in part by a grant from the California Department of Fish and Game, provides land managers with information vital to "save the pollinators" of Yolo County. The county includes six major landscapes: agriculture, grasslands, woodlands, shrubland and scrub, riparian and wetland, and urban and barren.
As the scientists point out, some 60 to 90 percent of the world's flowering plants depend on animals for pollination, and most of these animals are insects.
"Research shows that native bees contribute substantially to the pollination of many crops, including watermelon, canola, sunflower, and tomatoes," the report says. "The value of crop pollination by native, wild bees in the United States is estimated at $3 billion. In Yolo County, extensive studies demonstrate the significant role of native pollinators in the economic viability of agriculture. In addition, native bees provide incalculable value as pollinators of native plants."
Among the many contributors to this report: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and UC Berkeley conservation biologist Claire Kremen, an affiliate of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
This is a report well-worth reading, and even more importantly, following the measures listed to protect the health of our native bees. These beneficial insects need flowers for foraging and nest sites to raise their young. Some 70 percent of native bee species nest in the ground. Most of the others nest in cavities in trees or plant stems. "Bumble bees require a small cavity such as an abandoned rodent hole," the report indicates.
So, that black-faced bumble bee (Bombus californicus) that you see gathering pollen on a California poppy may go home to...well...a rat hole.
All the more reason to become more observant and pro-active of their needs.
Black-Faced Bumble Bee
Folks accustomed to seeing only honey bees (which are non-natives) buzzing around their yard probably aren't aware that in the United States alone there are some 4000 identified species of native bees.
And they probably aren't aware of The Bee Course.
That's a workshop offered for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees. It's held annually in Portal, Ariz. in the Chiricahua Mountains at the Southwest Research Station of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). This year's dates are Aug. 22-Sept. 1.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, and active in the Xerces Society, has taught at The Bee Course since 2002.
The course, led by Jerry Rozen of AMNH, has been operating continuously since 1999, Thorp said, and UC Davis graduates are very much involved. Steve Buchmann who received his Ph.D. at UC Davis in 1978, is one of the instructors. Ron McGinley who received his undergraduate degree at UC Davis, does most of the initial student contact and scheduling for the course, Thorp said.
"There are usually about eight instructors and 22 participants for the 10- day course," Thorp said. "Most of the time is spent in the lab identifying bees to genus. At least three days are spent in the field so students can see various bees doing their thing, collect them and bring them back to the lab to ID them. It is a great experience for students to interact with instructors and especially with their peers from round the world."
"Instructors all donate their time to teach in the course, but benefit from the chance to get together with colleagues and a new cohort of interesting students each year. Every class is different--that is, it takes on its own personality--and each student brings something new and different to the mix."
More locally, Thorp will speak Sunday, March 7 on the amazing diversity of native bees at the 2010 Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Santa Rosa-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP). He'll discuss their nesting habits and nest site requirements. The symposium takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Subud Center, 234 Hutchins Ave., Sebastopol.
The fourth annual conference will offer updates and new perspectives on honey bees and native pollinators, according to PFSP executive director Kathy Kellison.
It's good to see the focus on native bees as well as honey bees. For more information on native bees, be sure to check out the Xerces Society Web site and UC Berkeley's Native Bee Gardens.
Yolo County Bee Collection
Metallic Green Sweat Bee
Robbin Thorp's many areas of expertise include the amazing diversity of native bees.
He'll discuss their diversity, nesting habits and nest site requirements when he addresses the 2010 Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Santa Rosa-based Partners for Sustainable Pollination (PFSP).The conference, to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, March 7 in the Subud Center, 234 Hutchins Ave., Sebastopol, will offer updates and new perspectives on honey bees and native pollinators.
Thorp, a native bee specialist and an emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, "retired" in 1994, but not really. He still maintains his office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, and continues to focus his research on the ecology, systematics, biodiversity and conservation of bees. He's involved in research on the role of native bees in crop pollination, the role of urban gardens as bee habitat, and declines in native bumble bee populations.
Thorp is known as the "go-to" person when it comes to native bee identification. Mason bees? Check. Leafcutter bees? Check. Blue orchard bees? Check. Bumble bees? Double-check.
Last June he presented a talk at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., on "Western Bumble Bees in Peril" and in August, addressed the Western Apicultural Society conference in Healdsburg on native bees.
Retired? No way.
Among the other main speakers at the 2010 Bee Symposium: Kathy Kellison (top left), executive director of PFSP; beekeeper Serge Labesque of Glen Ellen, Sonoma County; researcher and beekeeper Randy Oliver of Grass Valley, Nevada County; and Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist (honey bee specialist) and a member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
The conference also will include information on beekeeping practices, innovative approaches and ecological strategies for beekeepers, Kellison said, "and actions that can be taken by beekeepers, groups and other interested supporters who wish to help our bees."
Kellison say the "early bee" (not "early bird") registration for the 2010 Bee Symposium is $25 if you sign up by March 1. After March 1, the cost is $30. It's open to all interested persons.
More information on the symposium, including registration, is on the PFSP Web site.
Have you seen the little syrphid flies, aka flower flies and hover flies, hovering around the early spring blossoms?
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, said these syrphids (below) are probably from the genus Toxomerus. The family is Syrphidae (flower flies).
The larvae of these insects are good to have in your garden--they eat aphids, thrips and small caterpillars. The adults feed on nectar and pollen.
The syrphids fly so fast that you almost need a motor drive to capture them in flight. Plus, they seem especially skittish this time of year. Shadow them with your body or camera and they're gone in a flash.To learn more about flower flies, a good read is Robert Buggs' 25-page booklet, "Flower Flies (Syrphidae) and Other Biological Control Agents for Aphids in Vegetable Crops," published in May 2008 by the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). You can download it for free by accessing this page.
It's illustrated with photos that will help you recognize many of the syrphids.