You may also have heard that during the two-hour program (free and open to the public), Thorp will share his extensive knowledge of bees and discuss their role as pollinators.
What you may not have heard is that Robbin Thorp is the newly selected recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award, a high honor, indeed. And richly deserved.
Robbin Thorp, known as a tireless advocate of native bees, especially bumble bees, will be presented the award at a luncheon hosted next month by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.
“Professor Thorp has had an outstanding professional career in the area of pollination ecology and systematics of honey and bumble bees,” said Lyn Lofland, president of the Executive Committee of the UC Davis Emeriti Association. “He has continued his professional contributions since he retired publishing both scientific papers and books. He has continued to teach and guide graduate students providing them with the benefit of his vast experience and knowledge. He also provides expert taxonomic services, identifying thousands of native bee specimens. He has coupled this effort with training numerous field assistants. Professor Thorp matched perfectly with the criteria established for the Distinguished Emeriti Award."
Thorp said it's a great honor to be named a distinguished emeritus. "It is an extra pleasure to be recognized for doing what I love and enjoy."
Thorp, who joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 1964 and achieved emeritus status in 1994, is a state, national and global authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, contribution of native bees to crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
Since his retirement, he has compiled an exemplary record for his research, teaching, publications, presentations, and advisement services, sharing his expertise with local, statewide, national and international audiences. In his retirement, he has published 68 papers and is the first author on 15 publications. He received several prestigious awards: the 2013 outstanding team award, with several colleagues, from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, and the 2010-2011 Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship, UC Davis. Thorp is the North American regional co-chair for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bumblebee Specialist group. He is a member of 10 professional societies, including the International Society of Hymenopterists.
Thorp chaired the Jepson Prairie Advisory Committee at UC Davis from 1992-2011 (which includes seven years after his retirement). He is still active as a docent leading tours during the tour season. He is also involved in training new docents by providing information on the native bees that pollinate vernal pool flowers.
Thorp spends much of his time in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses collections critical to his bee identification work. He identifies species and regularly volunteers at the open houses and other event.
Thorp is an integral part of The Bee Course, an annual 10-day workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Field Station near Portal, Ariz. He has taught there since 2002 (the instructors are all volunteers), and even though he is 81 years young, he plans to continue teaching there.
In an email conversation, colleague James Cane of the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit, Utah State University, Logan, said it well: “Dr. Robbin Thorp should be the first scientist to be cloned, so valuable and broadly integrated are his knowledge about bees and pollination. No one else I know has his combination of skills; normally several people would be needed. Thus, he is a taxonomist of several genera of bees, a competent pollination biologist studying both native bees and honey bees in both natural and agricultural realms (with research experience in several crops), and a conservation advocate for bees. Moreover, I have watched his considerable teaching skills while helping in The Bee Course over the years. There I also get to see what a model human being Robbin is: thoughtful, considerate, a great listener, playful, polite unpretentious, all traits that the students gravitate toward. I have looked to Robbin as a role model for over 30 years, listen carefully to what he has to say, and always look forward to being in his presence. UC Davis is very lucky indeed to have attracted and retained such a fabulous faculty member.”
Colleague Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley credits Thorp with not only identifying more than 100,000 bees for her research since his retirement in 1994, but helping her with research protocol and helping her graduate students identify bees. “Dr. Thorp has contributed in three main ways. First, he has provided expert input into the design of protocols for the research, including assays for pollinator effectiveness, developing citizen science methods, rearing experimental bumble bee colonies, monitoring bumble bee colony properties in the field, and developing pollinator survey methods. Second, he has provided expert taxonomic services, including personally identifying over 100,000 native bee specimens that we have collected during this work, and working with us to develop a bee traits database. Third, he has trained numerous field assistants and graduate students from my lab in different aspects of bee biology. He's spent long hours with many of my graduate students helping them learn to identify bees. He also helped us develop methods and information sheets for teaching field and lab teams to recognize key generic and family characters for identifying bees in the field and sorting them in the lab. He's advised many of my graduate students on different aspects of their work.”
Said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis: “I have to say that Robbin has been phenomenal. He is more active in research and outreach every year. Regardless of what task is presented to him he is engaged and brings all his experience and knowledge to bear. I don't know many line faculty who are as active in their fields as Robbin is as a retiree. He is always available for museum events and loves to work with the public, particularly kids. I don't know of many pollination ecologists or bee systematists with his level of knowledge.”
Entomologist Katharina Ullmann, who received her doctorate in 2014 from UC Davis, says that Robbin Thorp is “one of the few people in North America who can identify bees down to the species level. As a result he's in high demand and has identified thousands of specimens for numerous lab groups since his retirement. However, he doesn't just identify the specimens. Instead, he's willing to patiently work through dichotomous keys with you so that you can learn those skills. His ongoing monitoring projects, work as an IUCN specialist, and recent books on bumble bee identification and guide to the bees of California show his commitment to the broader impacts of his research.”
Around the UC Davis campus, Thorp is known as a tireless advocate for pollinator education and outreach. He is often called upon by the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden (both part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology), the UC Davis Arboretum and the California Center for Urban Horticulture to participate in their public outreach forums and events.
He spends countless hours connecting people of all ages to the world of insects, especially the pollinators like bumble bees. One of his research projects is monitoring the native bee activity in our department's bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden, work that he has done since 2008. In addition, he frequently presents talks at UC Davis and afield, to diverse audiences including UC Master Gardeners, beekeeper groups, and schoolchildren.
Thorp, who calls Michigan his home state, received both his bachelor's degree and master's degree in zoology from the University of Michigan. He received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1964.
Previous recipients of the distinguished award:
2014: Tom Cahill, professor emeritus, physics
2013: Eldredge Moores, professor emeritus, geology
2012: Alex McCall, professor emeritus and former dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
2011: Charles Hess, professor emeritus and dean emeritus, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
2008: M. Wayne Thiebaud, emeritus professor, art
Congratulations, Robbin Thorp! Scientist, researcher, author, professor, teacher, and a longtime public advocate for the bees!
P. S. Can we clone him now, as Jim Cane suggested?
Say you're a caterpillar or an aphid and a wasp comes along and lays her eggs inside you. Her eggs will hatch and then her offspring will eat their way out. You, the host, are no more. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
If you visit the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Sunday, Jan. 11 on the University of California, Davis, campus, you'll learn all about parasitoids.
The fun, educational and family-friendly event is themed, "Parasitoid Palooza!" Free and open to the public, it takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane,
"Most everyone knows that mantids eat other insects or that ladybird beetles (lady bugs) consume lots of aphids, but there is another way insects eat other insects," commented Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
"An insect parasitoid is a species whose immatures live off of one insect host, usually eating it from the inside out," she said. "It is part of their life cycle and the host dies. This sounds like a weird way to make a living, but there are more species of parasitoids than there are insects with any other single kind of life history. The movie Alien with Sigourney Weaver co-opts this phenomenon, but in reality there are no parasitoids on humans or other vertebrates."
The Bohart open house will spotlight this unusual life cycle. Wasps, flies and beetles are parasitoids to many different insect groups.
Senior museum scientist and collections manager Steve Heydon, is a world authority on Pteromalids, or jewel wasps, a group of tiny parasitoids, and will be on hand to talk about them.
Live parasitoids from the lab of Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomolology and Nematology will be showcased. They include Encarsa, Eretmocerus, Diglyphus and Aphidius.
"Parasitoid Palooza" promises to be a fun and wacky celebration of the diversity of life, Yang said. A family-friendly craft activity with balloons inside of balloons (representing parasitoids) is planned.
Before you go, be sure to check out Wired.Com's piece on a wasp from the genus Glyptapantele laying eggs in a caterpillar. Tachinid flies also provide biological control services, laying their eggs in a number of insects, including beetles, moths, sawflies, earwigs and grasshoppers.
Along with parasitoids, visitors will see some "teddy bear" bees or male Valley carpenter bees, to be shown by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Allan Jones of Davis, a noted insect photographer, delivered some to Thorp's office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility last week. Their origin? A friend's felled apple tree in Davis. The tree had rotted and male and female Valley carpenter bees were wintering inside.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.
Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Open houses, focusing on specific themes, are held on weekends throughout the academic year.
The remaining schedule of open houses:
- Sunday, Feb. 8: “Biodiversity Museum Day,” noon to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, March 14: “Pollination Nation,” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, April 18: UC Davis Picnic Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Sunday, May 17: “Name That Bug! How About Bob?” 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, July 18: “Moth Night,” 8 to 11 p.m.
More information is available by contacting Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 752-0493.
When a rotten apple tree was cut down last week on private property in Davis, scores of eyes peered from the drilled holes. Soon, adult male Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta)--those green-eyed golden bees known as "teddy bears"--emerged with their female counterparts. The males and females look nothing alike; the females are solid black.
As entomologists know, the females drill holes in wood to lay their eggs. When the adult females and males emerge from their cells, they "wait it out" until spring or when the weather warms enough for them to take flight. It gets pretty cold in Davis.
Talented insect photographer Allan Jones of Davis got the carpenter-bee call. "My good friend's son, a football player up from Claremont, cut down the rotten apple tree," Jones said. Surprise! Insects began crawling from the drilled holes.
Jones knew immediately what they were. He's photographed hundreds of them. He picked up the golden bees, knowing that "boy bees can't sting" and delivered them to native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.
"The golden boys were all clinging together in a little ball when I left (the Laidlaw facility)," Jones said.
Thorp plans to keep them chilled to see if they survive the winter. They also will be part of "show and tell" at the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 11 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
The male Valley carpenter bees are often mistaken for a new species of bumble bee. In fact, some refer to them as "golden bumble bees."
The Valley carpenter bees are the largest carpenter bee in California. They are included in the newly published California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, co-authored by entomologist Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley, Thorp, entomologist-photographer Rollin Coville and UC Berkeley botanist and curator Barbara Ertter.
Xylocopa varipuncta inhabits the Central Valley, Santa Clara Valley, and Southern California. At many garden events, visitors are surprised when Thorp picks up a male Valley carpenter bee and lets them hold it and feel the vibrating buzz.
"Boy bees can't sting," he tells them. "They're bluffing."
When the UC Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology hosts its open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 23, the theme will be "Insect Myths." (Okay, and spider myths, too!)
You'll learn about honey bee, ladybug, butterfly and spider myths at this family-oriented event, which is free and open to the public.
The insect museum located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, is not only the home of nearly 8 million insect specimens, but it operates a live "pettting zoo" (Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) and a year-around gift shop filled with T-shirts, jewelry, posters, books, bug-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy, including chocolate-dipped scorpions, crunchy crickets, and protein-rich lollipops.
Another popular book, published in 2013, is a 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, authored by entomologist Fran Keller, who this year received her doctorate in entomology from UC Davis. She is a researcher, college instructor, mentor, artist, photographer, and author.
The book, geared for kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms, and also a favorite of adults, tells the untold story of the California dogface butterfly (Zerene eurydice), and how a classroom successfully mounted a campaign to name it the California state insect. Illustrations by artist Laine Bauer, a UC Davis graduate, and photographs by naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum volunteer, depict the life cycle of this butterfly and show the host plant, false indigo (Amorpha californica). Net proceeds from the sale of this book are earmarked for the education, outreach and research programs at the Bohart Museum.
Gift shop items are available both in the store (Monday through Thursday) and online, http://www.bohartmuseum.com/.
Among the favorites gifts at the Bohart Museum:
- T-shirts depicting images of dragonflies, butterflies, beetles and moths
- Bohart Museum coffee mug
- Insect collecting net
- Posters of butterflies of Central Californian, Dragonflies of California, and the California Dogface butterfly
- Butterfly habitat
- Jewelry depicting bees, butterflies, dragonflies and ladybugs (many of the boxes are engraved with the Bohart logo and treasured)
- Science kits
- Insect and spider books
- Insect magnets
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, is open to the public from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. More information is available by contacting the Bohart Museum at (530) 752-0493 or Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator at email@example.com.
Last summer we spent many hours capturing images of male long-horned bees, Melissodes aegils, sleeping in clusters on the stems of our guara at night and early morning. (Sometimes they slept inches away from a praying mantis.) Then during the day the boys chased the girls, all the while protecting their turf from prospective suitors and pollinators.
We captured our last seasonal image of a long-horned bee on Sept. 28. It was a Melissodes, all right, but it was Melissodes robustior, a male, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and one of the authors of California Bees and Blooms.
The book, the work of Gordon Frankie, Thorp, Rollin Coville, and Barbara Ertter, all affiliated with UC Berkeley (Thorp received his doctorate there), is a wealth of information about not only bees, but the flowers they visit. (See the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.)
Want to know about Melissodes? There are 130 species of Melissodes in the New World, and about 100 of them live in North America. Of that number, 50 species live in California. Who knew? And only three Melissodes species are widespread and common in California, including our robust buddy, Melissodes robustior.
Last summer we watched at least two species of Melissodes attempt to claim all the guara, catmint, oregano, rosemary, Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), Cosmos, and African blue basil, much to the "bee-wilderment" of honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees and other pollinators.
The long-horned bees are all gone now, but next year a whole new generation will take their place.