The question is: Where are you? Have you managed to "hide" all these years or are you extinct?
A “search party” of scientists and citizen scientists is forming to look for Franklin's bumble bee and other rare bumble bees from Monday, July 17 through Friday, July 21 at Mt. Ashland, Ore.
Noted bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, will be there to identify the bees. In addition, he will present a brief introductory training session, showing examples of bumble bees that inhabit the area, “and especially the rare ones we hope to find.”
The event, organized by Jeffrey Dillon, Endangered Species Division Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Ore., mainly involves searching for Bombus franklini and the endangered Western bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis, in the Mt. Ashland and Siskiyou-Cascade National Monument area. The survey is open to all interested volunteers.
Both bumble bees are on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
“The objective is to get more eyes out looking for the rare bumble bees,” said Thorp, co-author of Bumble Bees of North America, An Identification Guide.
Thorp will provide a "Bumble Bee 101 Tailgate Course" at 3 p.m. on Monday, July 17. The group will meet him "a few hundred yards west of the Mt. Ashland ski resort (just before reaching the gravel road)," Dillon said. Thorp also will be there Tuesday morning for an informal overview of bumble bees.
Thorp, who has been monitoring Franklin's bumble bee since 1998, hasn't seen the bee since Aug. 9, 2006, when he spotted it in a meadow near Mt. Ashland. In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to the same meadow. Sutter 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."
"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."
Thorp says the distinctively marked bumble bee has the most restricted range of any bumble bee in the world. Its habitat is--or was--a small area of southern Oregon (Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties) and northern California (Siskiyou and Trinity counties).
Franklin's bumble bee frequents California poppies, lupines, vetch, wild roses, blackberries, clover, sweet peas, horsemint and mountain penny royal during its flight season, from mid-May through September, Thorp points out. It collects pollen primarily from lupines and poppies and gathers nectar mainly from mints.
Thorp sighted 94 in 1998; 20 in 1999; 9 in 2000 and only 1 in 2001. Sightings increased slightly to 20 in 2002, but dropped to 3 in 2003. Thorp saw none in 2004 and 2005; one in 2006; and none since.
In a UC Davis interview in July 2010, Thorp said: “People often ask the value of Franklin's bumble bee. 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 keeps looking.
Dillon emailed survey volunteers that “we plan to spend two full days, Tuesday and Wednesday up on Mt. Ashland, a day over at the Hobart Bluff area (Thursday), and potentially part of a day at Grizzly Peak (Friday morning). Volunteers are welcome for part of the survey or all of it."
Some of the habitat is rugged terrain. All volunteers are encouraged to bring their own nets, and any medication needed if they are allergic to bee stings. Inexperienced folks will be paired with the more experienced, Dillon said.
"If you don't make it over on Monday, we will be up on Mt. Ashland to start the day between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. "To find us, go to the Mt. Ashland ski resort. Then continue west past the resort onto the gravel road. Stay basically at the same elevation for about 1 to 1.5 miles past the ski resort--there are other side roads that go down or up oin elevation. You should run into a cluster of vehicles on the side of the road with a number of people nearby that appear to be wandering aimlessly through the alpine meadows with white nets. There will not have been an escape, just fellow bumble bee enthusiasts hoping to be the first to find a Franklin's bumble bee."
“We have already reserved and covered the cost of the group campsite (there is only one) at the Emigrant Lake campground for the week. There are four level tent areas that hold several tents each with plenty of parking space. Showers and restrooms are a short walk away. Everyone is welcome to camp with us if interested.” The campground is located southeast of Ashland on the north edge of Emigrant Lake (reservoir). "Following the main road through the campground, the group site is basically the last campsite area before heading around the lake--it will be on your left. On Monday, July 17, we will probably get there between 5:30 and 6 p.m. We have already covered the cost of the campsite.
For further information, Dillon's office number is (503) 231-6197 and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Results of the 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Ore., survey:
- Bumble bee species found at Mt. Ashland on July 18/19, 2016:
Bombus mixtus, B. melanopygus, B. bifarius, B. vosnesenskii, B. flavifrons, B. occidentalis, B. appositus, and B. insularis. Had a report of a B. vandykei but did not see it.
- Bumble bee species found at Hobart Bluff trailhead area July 20, 2016:
Bombus mixtus, B. vosnesenskii, B. flavifrons, B. appositus, B. californicus, B. griseocollis, B. flavidus, and B. insularis.
- Bumble bee species found at Grizzly Peak area July 21, 2016:
B. vosnesenskii, B. flavifrons, and B. appositus.
She's in Vacaville, Calif., and the garden she is visiting today is a veritable oasis of blooms: Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) and lavender (Lavandula). And it's filled with bees.
That's why she's here.
Just as crooks rob banks because "that's where the money" is, predators hang around pollinator gardeners because "that's where the prey is."
The predator is hungry. Ah, what's that? She glides from her perch, her wings glowing in the morning sunshine. She circles the garden and quickly returns with a pollen-laden bee in her mouth.
She ignores the photographer sitting a few feet from her and begins to eat.
But what bee? What bee is on the dragonfly menu?
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, identified the bee from one photography angle (second photo below): a female sweat bee, genus Halictus.
"But what species?" asked Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
Here's another angle (first photo below), showing the head.
That's all it took. "The bee is a female of Halictus ligatus, based on the head shape, especially the pointed part of the back right side of the head," Thorp said.
Amazing. Who would know that?
Robbin Thorp, that's who.
Robbin Thorp knows bees like we know the way home. World-renowned for his bee expertise, he co-authored of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, and Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide and co-teaches at The Bee Course, an American Museum of Natural History workshop held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. The workshop is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees. This year's workshop is set Aug. 21-31.
Meanwhile, the dragonfly polishes off her meal, gazes at the photographer (What, are you still here? Sorry, I don't share!), and off she goes, zigzagging over the garden.
She will be back. She's punched only one hole of his meal ticket. Many holes--and many bees--remain.
As noted entomologist May Berenbaum pointed out, it's "a celebration of Earth's 100,000-plus animal species that, by transporting pollen and facilitating flower fertilization, make life possible for two-thirds of the world's flowering plants."
Berenbaum wrote an excellent pollinator piece posted yesterday on the National Academy of Sciences' Facebook page. It bears repeating.
Berenbaum, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a past president of the Entomological Society of America, related: "Not entirely coincidentally, 2017 is an anniversary for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine—it's the tenth year since the publication of the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America report, a committee I chaired."
"My association with pollinator issues goes back to 2004, when, as Chair of the Board of Agriculture and Natural Resources, I was an outspoken advocate for a study to determine whether North America's pollinator species were declining, as appeared to be happening elsewhere in the world. The committee released its findings in October 2006, among the most striking of which was a decline in the numbers of commercial honey bees such that, were the trend to continue, the U.S. apiculture industry, on which producers of over 90 crops depend, 'would vanish by 2035.' In a remarkable confluence of events, that same month, the first reports of what was later dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) surfaced; bees literally began vanishing, abandoning depleted, doomed colonies. Concern in the agricultural community and then the general public escalated and has remained high ever since. So, sadly, have losses; although CCD itself has declined, in the past year America lost one-third of its commercial colonies."
"The 2007 report also concluded that, unlike honey bees, population data for thousands of America's native pollinators (including its 4,000 native bee species) were sorely lacking and called for increasing efforts to engage the public in documenting, mitigating, and reversing declines," Berenbaum noted. "Since then, many data gaps have been filled and conservation strategies implemented. In 2014, President Obama prioritized a national strategy to promote pollinator health, including public-private partnerships to restore pollinator habitat."
This year the rusty-patched bumblebee "became the first continental bee to be protected under the Endangered Species Act," Berenbaum wrote.
Let's hope there will be many others.
Background on the rusty-patched bumble bee: Among those credited with sounding the alarm was Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. It was a long, dedicated and challenging effort by many people who care. In 2010 Thorp co-authored a petition sent to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The petition was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013. In 2015, agency officials agreed to consider it. In 2016, they proposed protection. Then on Jan. 10, 2017, the agency listed the rusty-patched bumble bee as an endangered species.
Other key players in making this all happen included natural history photographer/filmmaker Clay Bolt and his friends at the Day's Edge Productions, which created the award-winning film, A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee with support from the Xerces Society and others. The result: nearly 200,000 persons signed a petition seeking endangered status for the bee.
Thorp, co-author of Bumble Bees of North America, An Identification Guide. continues to sound the alarm on the declining bumble bee population, especially Franklin's bumble bee (Bombus franklini), found only in a five-county area of northern California and southern Oregon.
He's been monitoring the elusive bee since 1998, but sadly, hasn't seen it since Aug. 9, 2006 when he spotted it in a meadow near Mt. Ashland. (See Bug Squad)
Thorp helped place Franklin's bumble bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). "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 is 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.
As the end of the 10th annual National Pollination Week nears, there is so much more to be done to understand, protect and celebrate our pollinators to ensure that they don't "end."
As May Berenbaum said: "A week hardly seems long enough for the celebration!"/span>
“I'd love to attract honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators, but what can I do?" you ask. "Where do I start?"
So we asked world-class garden designer Kate Frey of Hopland, a two-time gold medal winner at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London, co-founder of the American Garden School, and co-author of The Bee-Friendly Garden (with Professor Gretchen LeBuhn of San Francisco State University) for her advice.
Few people are as passionate about pollinators and pollinator gardens as Kate Frey.
We heard her speak at the Native Bees Workshop last September at the Hopland Research and Extension Center, Mendocino County, and we tagged along on her guided tour of her one-acre spectacular garden at her Hopland home, where she and husband Ben and assorted pets reside. We also heard her speak on "Gardening for Bees, Beauty and Diversity" May 14 at Annie's Annuals and Perennials, Richmond.
Kate is highly sought as a speaker, whether it be at sustainable landscape programs, gardening seminars, or at UC workshops. Among her affiliates: University of California entomologists Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor at UC Davis, and Professor Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley. (Read what Frankie has to say about native bees.)
So, what to do first? Kate offers these tips:
- Create healthy gardens that require no pesticides by using the right plant, right place approach, add quality compost to all plants and irrigate adequately.
- Choose appropriate plants for your water, soils, exposure, climate, and if annuals, season!
- Think in terms of abundance, not minimalism. Plant at least a 3-x-3 foot area of each plant, or repeat the same plant throughout your garden. Each honey bee colony needs an estimated one-acre of flowers to support it.
- Goal: 12 months of bloom. Plants can be annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees.
- Make sure plants do offer floral resources, as many landscape plants don't.
- Have patches or repeated plants of the same flower. Honey bees practice floral constancy.
- Include water for honey bees
- Sunny spaces are the best.
- Provide bee-block nests and mulch-free nest sites for native bees.
All great advice! Indeed, we should think of pollinators as not mere "visitors," but permanent residents. Plant what they like and they will come. To ensure that they will stay stay, leave soil bare for ground-nesting bees, such as bumble bees. And don't forget those bee-block nests, or bee condos, for leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees.
- Asclepias milkweeds, all
- Asters, Aster x frikartii 'Monch' A. ericoides ‘Monte Casino', A. laterifolius Lady in Black'
- Agastache, ‘Black Adder' ‘'Purple Haze' Rosy Giant' ‘Tutti Frutti' and many more
- Arbutus unedo, Strawberry tree
- Arctostaphylos, most Manzanita
- Calamentha nepetoides, Calamentha
- Ceanothus, all California lilac
- Epilobium, California fuchsia. There are many good cultivars
- Eriogonum fasciculatum, California buckwheat
- Gaillardia, Blanket flower
- Helianthus bolanderi, native shrubby sunflower
- Monardella villosa, Coyote mint
- Nepeta faassenii, all nepetas, Catmint
- Origanum, flowering oregano, all. Origanum 'Santa Cruz' and 'Bristol Cross' are good.
"Bee gardens make people happy," Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn write in their book. "Whether you enjoy a brilliant chorus of saturated color, a tranquil sanctuary from the busy world, or a hardworking edible garden, there is a glorious, flower-filled bee garden waiting for you."
Yes, we all need a happy place. And so, too, do the pollinators.
Hey, honey bee, I'll race you to the flowers.
Okay, but you'll lose. I can go faster. Watch me!
The scene: a male bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, and a worker honey bee, Apis mellifera, are buzzing along at breakneck speed toward the lavender in our pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif.
They nearly collide but Mr. Bumble Bee pauses in mid-air and gives Ms. Honey Bee a free pass---and just in time for National Pollinator Week, when all of our pollinators need free passes! That starts out with two crucial steps: plant bee-friendly flowers and avoid using pesticides. Feed them food, not poison.
The end result here: plenty of nectar for everyone.
Bombus melanopygus, also known as the black-tailed honey bee, is among the bumble bees featured in the book, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University), the award-winning work of Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson and Sheila R. Colla.
Thorp, a distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, is also the co-author (along with Gordon Frankie, Rollin Coville, and Barbara Ertter) of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists. They offer great information on bee identification, but also crucial advice on how to attract and retain bees in your garden.
Happy Pollinator Week!/span>