Ever watched Valley carpenter bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) foraging on salvia?
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, recently noticed a flurry of carpenter bees in the grape-scented sage, Salvia melissodora, in the Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden on Bee Biology Road.
Native bee enthusiast Celeste Ets-Hokin of the Bay Area gifted the plant to him. It is now thriving in the department's half-acre bee friendly garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. Planted in 2009, the garden is located on Bee Biology Road, next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the central campus.
When carpenter bees forage on the sage, they receive "pollen deposits" or "pollen caps" on their heads. "A perfect placement spot for pollen transfer from flower to flower," Thorp commented. "It also produces a striking orangish patch on the face of the all black bees."
The female Valley carpenter beesare solid black, while the males (which Thorp calls "teddy bear bees"), are green-eyed blonds.
As for the Salvia melissodora, the name "melissodora" originates from the Greek "Melissa" (honey bee) and "odora" (fragrance).
Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 2. That's when the Department of Entomology and Nematology will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the garden installation. Free and open to the public, the open house will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. UC Davis bee scientists will be there to help you observe and identify the native bees and provide information on honey bees. Download the flier for more information.
Thanks to a generous gift from Häagen-Dazs, the garden came to life during the term of interim department chair, Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, who coordinated the entire project.
A Sausalito team--landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki--won the design competition. The judges were Professor Kimsey; founding garden manager Missy Borel (now Missy Borel Gable), then of the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCUH) at UC Davis and now director of the statewide UC Master Gardeners; David Fujino, executive director, CCHU; Aaron Majors, construction department manager, Cagwin & Dorward Landscape Contractors, based in Novato; Diane McIntyre, senior public relations manager, Häagen-Dazs ice cream; Heath Schenker, professor of environmental design, UC Davis; Jacob Voit, sustainability manager and construction project manager, Cagwin and Dorward Landscape Contractors; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Others who played a key role in the founding and "look" of the garden included the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, co-founded and co-directed by the duo of entomologist/artist Diane Ullman, professor and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology (now Department of Entomology and Nematology), and self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick. The ceramic mosaic art is the work of UC Davis Entomology 1 students, taught by Ullman and Billick, and artists from the community. Billick's stunning ceramic bee sculpture of a worker bee, "Miss Bee Haven," anchors the garden. Eagle Scout Derek Tully planned, organized and built a state-of-the-art fence around the garden. Later the California chapter of the Daughters of the America Revolution provided a much-welcomed donation. (Read more about the history of the bee garden here). Chris Casey succeeded Melissa Borel as the manager of garden.
Now five years have come and gone, and generations of bees have come and gone. Life is good.
For me, it's zero, zilch, nada.
They're out there, though. Talent insect photographer Allan Jones of Davis, shared some of his images that he captured this year.
Bumble bees, however, are declining throughout the world, and it would be "a frightening thought" if bumble bees were to go from declining to extinct, said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
He and fellow bumble bee authority Sheila Colla of Eastern Canada are the co-coordinators of the North American (United States and Canada) Bumble Bee Species Conservation Workgroup for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Thorp and Colla are featured in a newly released Radio-Canada video on declining bumble bees.
The six-minute version was broadcast last weekend. You'll hear the news reporter speaking French and Thorp and Colla speaking English as they talk about the declining bee population:
Bee breeder-geneticist Michael "Kim" Fondrk of UC Davis, now retired, is featured in a segment on honey bee instrumental insemination:
A one-hour show, also broadcast last weekend, and more about honey bees, is at
It's a given: Honey bees love lupine.
We watched them buzzing around a flower patch of blue (lupine) and gold (California poppies) today along Hopkins Road, University of California, Davis, west of the central campus.
Those are Aggie colors: blue and gold. And those are Aggie bees, from the nearby Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, on Bee Biology Road.
Speaking of bees, the Bohart Museum of Entomology is hosting an open house, themed "Pollination Nation," from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 14 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane.
“It will be about bees, bees, bees,” said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and professor of entomology at UC Davis. The event is free and open to the public. Visitors can converse with bee specialists and view displays of bees from all over the world. Family activities are also planned.
Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California. The most recognizable, of course, is the honey bee, but it is not a native. European colonists brought it here (Jamestown colony) in 1622. The honey bee didn't arrive in California until 1853.
Bees play a profound role in shaping the world we live in, but many species remain strangers to us, according to native pollinator specialist and Bohart Museum associate Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis and a co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
Copies of the California Bees and Blooms (Heyday Books) and Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton Press), also co-authored by Thorp, will be available in the gift shop.
“Nature has programmed bees to build nests and supply their young with nutritious pollen and nectar, and their unique methods for collecting these resources are fascinating to observe, the authors wrote. "Their lives are dictated by season, weather and access to preferred flower types and nesting habitat.”
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, received the 2015 Distinguished Emeritus Award and Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology, received an Edward A. Dickson Emeritus Professor Award at the chancellor's luncheon on Monday, Feb. 23 in the UC Davis Pavilion.
The two emeriti professors from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology were among those honored at the event. UC Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, Provost Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter, and emcee Bill Rains, past president of the UC Davis Emeriti Association, praised them for their work.
Thorp was singled out for the distinguished emeritus award for his outstanding scholarly work and service accomplished since his retirement in 1994. "Dr. Robbin Thorp should be the first scientist to be cloned," said emcee Rains, quoting James Cane of the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit, Utah State University, Logan
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.
A fellow of the California Academy of Sciences since 1986 and a world authority on bumble bees and other native bees, Thorp keynoted the Smithsonian Institution's public symposium on “The Plight of the Bumble Bees” in June of 2009 in Washington D.C., delivering a presentation on “Western Bumble Bees in Peril.” He continues to monitor bumble bee populations in California and Oregon, including Franklin bumble bee (Bombus franklini), which he fears may be extinct. He has sounded the alarm on protecting bumble bees.
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. (See more on the departmental web page.)
Hugh Dingle. an international authority on animal migration, received a Dickson award to help fund his research on monarch butterflies, “Monarchs in the Pacific: Is Contemporary Evolution Occurring on Isolated Islands?” Monarch butterflies established just 200 years ago in remote Pacific islands are undergoing contemporary evolution through differences in their wing span and other changes, he believes.
Dingle, author of two editions of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move, said his previous studies reveal that migrant and resident monarchs exhibit different wing shapes. He will be working with community ecologist/associate professor Louie Yang and molecular geneticist/assistant professor Joanna Chiu of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to examine the ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in three islands where contemporary evolution might be expected. The islands are Oahu (Hawaii), Guam (Marianas) and Weno (Chuuk or Truk).
“This is the necessary first step in a long-term analysis of the evolutionary ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies on remote Pacific islands,” said Dingle, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Animal Behavior Society.
Dingle said the monarch, widely distributed “for eons” in the New World, is fairly new to the Pacific islands and to Australia. “In addition to North America, the monarch occurs as a resident throughout the Caribbean and Central and northern South America—and probably as a migrant farther south. One of the more intriguing aspects of its distribution is that beginning in the early part of the 19th century, it spread throughout the Pacific all the way to Australia, where there are now well-established."
An analysis of a monarch population in Hawaii shows that resident monarchs have shorter, broader wings than the long-distance migrants. The Hawaii butterfly wings were shorter than the eastern U.S. long-distance migrants, but “not so short-winged as the residents in the Caribbean or Costa Rica, which have been present in those locations for eons, rather than the 200 years for Hawaii.”
“If there are indeed wing shape changes associated with evolution in isolation, are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency?” Dingle wonders. “Are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency? Examples of such traits might be changes in flight muscle physiology, changes in photoperiodic diapause response, changes in the characteristics of orientation ability and its relation to antennal circadian rhythms, or changes in the reproductive capacity or tactics (re-colonization of ‘empty' habitats is no longer part of the life cycle).
Dingle published the second edition of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move (Oxford University Press) in November 2014. It is the sequel to the widely acclaimed first edition, published in 1996. National Geographic featured Dingle in its cover story on “Great Migrations” in November 2010. LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on “Why Do Animals Migrate?” (See more on the departmental web page.)
Congratulations, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robbin Thorp, and Dickson Professorship Awardee Hugh Dingle!
(Note: This blog, Bug Squad, focuses on entomology. Other recipients of the Dickson award were Daniel Anderson of the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources; Martha Macri of the Department of Linguistics; and Peter Schiffman, Department of Geology. (See web page.)
Australian beekeeper/pollination specialist Trevor Monson, a second-generation beekeeper, and his son, Jonathan and nephew Reece spent several hours last week at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis. They conferred with native bee pollination specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology.
Monson and his wife, Carolyn, and family of Victoria are bee pollination brokers and the largest in Australia--they broker 100,000 hives to growers. They own Monson's Honey and Pollination. Trevor is one of Australia's most frequently quoted bee experts. "His expertise is sought after at all levels of farming, forestry,industry, research, policy-making and government advisory bodies, such as the current Honey Bee Research Commission," according to a recent legislative report.
Thorp showed them a male and female Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) and their nest, a chunk of sawed-off apple tree felled in Davis and transported to the Laidlaw facility. The blond, green-eyed male and the solid black female drew their attention.
The trio also toured the nearby Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They admired the ceramic mosaic sculpture of a six-foot-long worker bee that anchors the garden. The sculpture, "Miss Bee Haven," is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.
During their weeklong stay in California, they met with a number of beekeepers and representatives of the bee and almond industries.