- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The third annual Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble Bee-of-the-Year Contest will begin at 12:01, Jan. 1. The first person to photograph a bumble bee in the two-county area and email it to the sponsor, the Bohart Museum of Entomology, will receive a coffee cup designed with the endangered Franklin's bumble bee, the bee that Thorp monitored on the California-Oregon border for decades.
Contest coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, said the image must be taken in the wild and emailed to email@example.com, with the time, date and place.
The contest memorializes Professor Thorp (1933-2019), a global authority on bees and a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, who died June 7, 2019 at age 85. A 30-year member of the UC Davis faculty, he retired in 1994 but continued working until several weeks before his death. Every year he looked forward to seeing the first bumble bee in the area.
Page photographed a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, while Zagory captured an image of the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
Fittingly, they both knew and worked with Thorp, a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation and the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
This marked the second consecutive win for a member of the Williams lab. Postdoctoral researcher Charlie Casey Nicholson of the Williams lab and the Elina Lastro Niño lab, won the 2021 contest by photographing a Bombus melanopygus at 3:10 p.m., Jan. 14 in a manzanita patch in the Arboretum.
Both Page and Nicholson are alumni of The Bee Course, which Thorp co-taught from 2002-2018. Page completed the course in 2018, and Nicholson in 2015. 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.
Page participated in a "Bumble Bee Blitz" organized by Thorp and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in July 2016 on Mt. Ashland, where, she said, "we searched for Bombus franklini and Bombus occidentalis-- two very rare west coast bee species. We unfortunately did not find B. franklini, which is now recognized as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.”
The prized coffee cup features an image of the bee specimen, photographed by Bohart scientist Brennen Dyer, now collections manager, and designed by UC Davis doctoral alumnus Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College.
Previous winners are ineligible to win the prize.