Thorp, a noted bumble bee expert, hasn't seen Franklin's bumble bee for 10 years, but that doesn't mean it's not there--somewhere in its small native range of southern Oregon and northern California.
Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and co-author of Bumble Bees of North America, An Identification Guide, has been chasing Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini) since 1998, the year he began monitoring for the elusive bee.
Last August a documentary crew from CNN chased him--well, sort of. They followed him to a meadow near Mt. Ashland, Oregon, where he last saw the bumble bee on Aug. 9, 2006.
John Sutter, a columnist for CNN Opinion who focuses on climate change and social justice, wrote about Thorp, then 82, in a piece he called "The Old Man and the Bee," a spinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
Sutter said he had no problem identifying Thorp. "White truck, bumble bee stick on tailgate. Yep, that's him."
Thorp also wore a t-shirt with an image of Franklin's bumble bee, a gift from his daughter. It's an image he took.
"That black-and-yellow bee, which looks like so many others except for the characteristic 'U' on is back, is the object of Thorp's obsession," wrote Sutter. "It's a creature he told me flies through his dreams always just out of reach."
No, Thorp and the documentary crew didn't find it that August day. Other bees, but not "that one."
But Thorp will keep looking for Franklin's bumble bee, which is on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He helped sound the alarm that put it on the Red List.
"Bombus franklini occurs only in the USA," IUCN relates. "It is found only from southern Oregon to northern California between the Coast and Sierra-Cascade Ranges, in Douglas, Jackson and Josephine and Siskiyou and Trinity counties in Oregon and California, respectively. This area is around 190 miles in the north-south direction (40º58' to 43º30'N latitude) and 70 miles from east to west (122º to 124ºW longitude)."
Franklin's bumble bee was named in 1921 for Henry J. Franklin, who monographed the bumble bees of North and South America in 1912-13. During its flight season, from mid-May through September, Franklin's bumble bee frequents California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet pea, horsemint and mountain penny royal. It collects pollen primarily from lupines and poppies, and gathers nectar mainly from mints.
We remember a July 2010 interview with Robbin Thorp.
“People often ask the value of Franklin's bumble bee," Thorp told us. "In terms of a direct contribution to the grand scale of human economies, perhaps not much, but no one has measured its contribution in those terms. However, in the grand scheme of our planet and its environmental values, I would say it is priceless.”
“Loss of a species, especially a pollinator, diminishes our global environment,” he said. “Bumble bees provide an important ecological service--pollination. This service is critical to reproduction of a huge diversity of plants that in turn provide shelter, food (seeds, fruits) to diverse wildlife. The potential cascade of effects from the removal of even one localized pollinator may affect us directly and indirectly.”
Meanwhile, Thorp continues to receive photos from folks asking if "this one" is Franklin's bumble bee. Or "that one."
No. Not "this one." Or "that one."
But he appreciates the lookout.
And Robbin Thorp still holds out hope that somewhere in that five-county area of southern Oregon and northern California, Franklin's bumble bee may reappear. Maybe 2017?
After all, it's a brand new year.
Specifically, California bees and blooms.
Even more specifically, undomesticated bees (that is, not honey bees).
Did you know that:
- Of the 4000 undomesticated bee species in the United States, some 1600 species are found in California?
- Seventy percent of bees nest in the ground, and 30 percent in pre-existing cavities?
Like honey bees, native bees are declining due to pesticides, habitat destruction and fragmentation, global climate change, drought and other extreme weather events, and lack of nutrition.
Native pollinator specialist Thorp, a Bohart Museum associate, is a distinguished emeritus professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and also the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press). He retired in 1994 after 30 years of teaching, research and mentoring graduate students but continues his research on pollination biology and ecology, systematics, biodiversity, and conservation of bees, especially bumble bees. Among his special interests: native bees of the vernal pool ecosystem.He maintains his office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
Native bee expert Frankie is a professor and research entomologist at UC Berkeley. His specialty is behavioral ecology of solitary bees in wildland, agricultural, and urban environments of California and Costa Rica. More information on his projects can be found at www.helpabee.org. See also the Bay Nature interview.
Coville, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, is a noted insect and spider photographer. Check out the photos on his website. Coville also has a strong interest in the biology and behavior of Hymenoptera and has published papers on Trypoxylon wasps and Centris bees.
Ertter is curator of Western North American Botany at the University and Jepson Herbaria, UC Berkeley. Primary research interests include western floristics (including the East Bay), systematics of several members of the rose family (that is,, Potentilla, Ivesia, Rosa), and the history of western botany.
California Bees and Blooms showcases 22 of the most common genera (and six species of cuckoo bees). You can learn about their distinctive behavior, social structure, flight season, preferred flowers (there are more than 6500 flowering species or angiosperms in California), and enemies, such as praying mantids.
The some 200 photos in the book will help you identify native bees, such as the bumble bee and carpenter bee below. We found these foraging in our backyard pollinator garden.
You can find out Wednesday, Oct. 12 at a program on "Bees and Climate Change” at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus.
The event, set from noon to 1:30 p.m--and free and open to the public--will include a tour and two speeches. Christine Casey, manager of the honey bee haven, will discuss “Climate Change and the Bee Garden," and Robbin Thorp distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will cover "Effects of Climate Change on Native Bees."
This is part of the 2016-17 Campus Community Book Project, spotlighting Raj Patel's Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System.
The haven, part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, was installed in the fall of 2009 following a generous donation from Häagen-Dazs, known for its premium ice cream. Approximately half of the company's flavors depend on bee pollination.
The Oct. 12th event is part of a series of tours and open houses scheduled the week of Oct. 11-13. Other tours and open houses for Oct. 11-13:
Tuesday, Oct. 11
Exploring Horticulture Innovations
Noon to 1:30 p.m., Horticulture Innovation Lab Demonstration Center
Tour the low-cost, agricultural technologies that UC Davis researchers are using around the world. Edible plant giveaway to the first 20 visitors.
Wednesday, Oct. 12
Student Farm Tour and Harvest
9 to 10:30 a.m., Student Farm
Join the Student Farm for a special tour and harvest demonstration. Campus and community members are all welcome!
Thursday, Oct. 13
Arboretum Edible Campus Project and World Food Day Information Session
Noon to 1:30 p.m., Plant and Environmental Sciences Salad Bowl Garden
Tour the Salad Bowl Garden and learn more about the Arboretum Edible Campus Project in celebration of World Food Day, which will be Sunday, Oct. 16.
Another upcoming event affiliated with the Campus Community Book Project will feature agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He will speak on "Urban Food Production in the Digital Age--Local Empowerment and Sustainability, on Wednesday, Jan. 18 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Memorial Union.
Those are just some of the events calendared for the academic year and showcasing the Campus Community Book Project. See more events here.
The Campus Community Book Project aims to promote dialogue and build community by encouraging diverse members of the campus and surrounding communities to read the same book and attend related events. The book project advances the Office of Campus Community Relations (OCCR) mission to improve both the campus climate and community relations, to foster diversity and to promote equity and inclusiveness.
For more information on the Campus Community Book Project, visit ccbp.ucdavis.edu.
No sweat? Or, are you...ahem...sweating the answer?
You can learn more about native bees at a special presentation on Saturday, Sept. 17 in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Hopland Research and Extension Center, Hopland.
"Native Bees in Your Backyard," sponsored by UC ANR, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature entomologist Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley professor and co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, and award-winning pollinator garden designer Kate Frey, co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden (written with co-author Gretchen LeBuhn, professor of biology at San Francisco State University.)
Entomologist/insect photographer Rollin Coville, who captured the spectacular images in California Bees and Blooms, will share his photos.
"The morning will be spent learning about some of the 1,600 native bee species found in California, from the leafcutting bee to the cuckoo bee, the sweat bee to the mining bee!" a spokesperson said. Attendees will learn how to identify them and how to accommodate the needs of the native bees in their own gardeners.
After a locally sourced lunch from Black Dog Farm catering, the participants will carpool to the gardens of Kate Frey, about five miles from the Hopland Research and Extension Center. Her gardens are renowned for their floristic diversity, color and the habitats they provide for wildlife. (See previous Bug Squad blog on Kate Frey.)
California Bees and Blooms is "the bible" of California bee books. A main co-author is Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Thorp, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, co-teaches The Bee Course every year at the Southwestern Research Station Portal, Ariz., which began today (Aug. 22) and continues through Sept. 1. Rounding out the list of co-authors of California Bees and Blooms is plant expert/curator Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley.
Registration for "Native Bees in Your Backyard" is now underway at http://hrec.ucanr.edu/?calitem=336669&g=61984. Early bird registration before Sept. 1 is $35. Registration is $40 after this date.
For more information, contact Bird at (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105 or email her at email@example.com.
So here's this newly eclosed male monarch trying to sip a little nectar from a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
A female longhorned bee, probably Melissodes agilis, seeks to claim it. There's no such thing as sharing, especially when nectar is at stake and it's first-come, first-served. However, the monarch is well positioned. There's no room for both a butterfly and a bee. Not at the same time.
Then a male longhorned bee (probably Melissodes agilis) targets the monarch. Shoo, monarch! Outta here! I'm saving that flower for my girl!
If you look closely at the male bee/male monarch photo, you can see the monarch's wings don't seem quite right. They're not. Greg Kareofelas, associate at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, points out that "the wings are deformed; they did not fully expand and dry straight."
As for the longhorned bee, Melissodes agilis is one of more than 1600 species of undomesticated bees that populate California.
To learn more about bees in California, get a copy of the landmark California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday), the work of bee experts Gordon W. Frankie of UC Berkeley and Robbin W. Thorp of UC Davis, photographer/entomologist Rollin E. Coville, and UC Berkeley botany expert Barbara Ertter.
All have UC Berkeley connections. Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley. Coville, who took the amazing, incredibly detailed photos for the book, also received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley.
The book also includes information on 53 bee friendly plants--like Tithonia!--and how to grow them.
Tithonia, a member of the sunflower family Asteraceae, is a favorite of insects. Pull up a chair at a Tithonia patch near you and observe the diversity of foraging insects. Among them: honey bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, longhorned bees, and assorted butterflies, including monarchs, Western tiger swallowtails, Gulf Fritillaries, skippers, California buckeyes, mournful duskywings, painted ladies, and cabbage whites. And oh, some predators, too, including praying mantids and wasps (insects) and crab spiders and orb weavers (spiders).
There's never a dull moment in the Tithonia patch.