- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
If you're thinking about taking a walk in Yolo or Solano counties to celebrate the new year--or just to get some exercise in keeping with your New Year's Resolution (you did make one, didn't you?)--bring your camera.
You might find and photograph the first bumble bee of the year in a contest sponsored by the Bohart Museum of Entomology and memorializing bumble bee expert Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology.
Participants are to capture an image of a bumble bee in the wild in either of the two counties and email the image to email@example.com, with the details of time, date and place. The image must be recognizable as a bumble bee, said contest coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology.
The first bumble bee to emerge in this area is the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, according to Thorp, who co-authored Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday).
Thorp launched the first unofficial bumble-bee-of-the-year contest several years ago with a small group of bumble bee enthusiasts/photographers: Allan Jones and Gary Zamzow of Yolo County, and yours truly of Solano County. Kim Chacon, then a UC Davis doctoral candidate and a Thorp protégé, joined us later. She is a 2019 alumnus of The Bee Course (co-taught by Thorp from 2002-2018). The nine-day intensive workshop, geared for conservation biologists and pollination ecologists and considered the world's premiere native bee biology and taxonomic course, takes place annually in Portal, Ariz. at the Southwestern Research Station, part of the American Museum of Natural History, N.Y.
Nicholson photographed B. melanopygus, in a manzanita patch at 3:10 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden to claim the honor. He is a researcher in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology labs of Professor Neal Williams, a pollination ecologist, and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño.
His prize? A coffee cup designed with the endangered bumble bee that Thorp closely monitored—Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, known to exist in a small area by the California-Oregon border. UC Davis doctoral alumnus Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College and a Bohart Museum scientist, designed the cup. Bohart scientist Brennen Dyer photographed the specimen from the Bohart collection.
The 2022 winner also will receive that prized coffee cup.
So, take a walk. Invite your camera. Keep that New Year's Resolution.