Jan. 11, 2013
His talk, "Buzzed for Bees," is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the Rush Ranch Educational Council and the Solano Land Trust.
Thorp will display bee specimens, and discuss the importance of providing bee habitat. He is a noted authority on native bees in vernal pools, the ecology of bumble bees, and honey bee pollination.
Thorp joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty in 1964 and retired in 1994. Although "officially" retired, he continues to do research, write publications, and deliver lectures. He teaches at The Bee Course, a workshop held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Arizona. The course is for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
One of his numerous research projects is monitoring the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden and demonstration garden planted south of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road. Over the last several years, he has found and identified more than 75 bee species. California has some 1600 species of native bees. Worldwide, the different bees species total 20,000.
Thorp is also co-authoring a book on urban bees and is a docent and instructor at the Solano Land Trust's Jepson Prairie Reserve.
Thorp recently wrote an article, "Native Bees and Flowers in California Prairies and Grasslands" in Fremontia, a publication of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), is devoted to the state's declining prairies and grasslands. He is a 35-year member of CNPS.
He quoted John Muir in his book, The Mountains of California: "When California was wild, it was one sweet bee-garden throughout its entire length...the Great Central Plain of California, during the months of March, April, and May, was one smooth, continuous bed of honey-bloom, so marvelously rich that in waking from one end of it to the other, a distance of more than 400 miles, your foot would press about a hundred flowers at every step."
In the article, Thorp calls attention to some of the flowers found today in the Central Valley grasslands. "Our state flower, the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) produces no nectar, but only pollen as a reward to bees...Generalist bumble bees (Bombus spp.) and sweat bees (Halictus spp.) are the main visitors, along with small pollen feeding beetles."
Directions to the Rush Ranch: To reach the site, from Highway 12 in Suisun City, head south on Grizzly Island Road for about two miles. The entrance gate is on the right. The workshop takes place in the Nature Center past the big white barn.
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology