Professor Thorp (1933-2019), a 30-year member of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and a worldwide authority on bees, was a tireless advocate of bumble bee conservation. During his retirement, he co-authored Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
And every summer from 2002 to 2018, Thorp volunteered his time and expertise to teach at The Bee Course, an annual workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz.
Thorp also served as the regional co-chair of the Wild Bee Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and sounded the alarm about bumble bee declines, including Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, found only in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. Thorp last saw it near Mt. Ashland in 2006 and it is is now feared extinct or at the brink of extinction. The bee inhabits--or did--a 13,300-square-mile area confined to five counties--Siskiyou and Trinity counties in California; and Jackson, Douglas and Josephine counties in Oregon.
Enter the California Bumble Bee Atlas (CBBA), a collaboration of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Sacramento, and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, headquartered in Portland, Ore. Launched in March 2022, the Atlas is a "collaborative community science effort to track and conserve the state's native bumble bee species," according to Dylan Winkler, bumble bee scientific aide for the CDFW's Wildlife Diversity Program.
Back in September 2021, CDFW announced that the American bumble bee, "whose populations have plummeted by nearly 90 percent, may warrant Endangered Species Act protection." The announcement kicked off a one-year status assessment of the species. (See news story)
If you're interested in bumble bee conservation, take note. Winkler will lead a "Bumble Bee Walk" from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 28 in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. The goal is to teach interested participants how to survey bumble bees. You can pre-register at https://arcg.is/0PDyO4. Organizers plan to cap attendance at 20 people. Details about this Atlas event and several more scheduled in June:
- Saturday, May 28: UC Davis Arboretum, Davis, CA (Yolo County), parking at Putah Creek Lodge Parking Lot, Garrod Drive, Davis, CA 95616. Tour of the native plant gardens and the forest along Putah Creek from 10 a.m. to noon.
- Saturday, June 4: The Gardens at Lake Merritt, 666 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland, CA (Alameda County). Tour of the gardens from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
- Sunday, June 5: College of Marin at Kentfield (Marin County), parking at covered Lots 6/7 off College Ave, Kentfield, CA 94904. Details: Meet at bridge over Corte Madera Creek. Tour of the campus native plants from 10 a.m. to noon.
- Saturday, June 18: Soil Born Farms, Rancho Cordova, CA (Sacramento County), parking at Soil Born Farms: American River Ranch, 2140 Chase Drive, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670. As part of National Pollinator Week, the group will tour the gardens from 10 a.m. to noon. Closed-toed shoes required.
Of the 50 species of bumble bees found in North America, an estimated 25 inhabit California. Overall, a quarter is at risk, according to the Atlas website. The decline is attributed to "loss or fragmentation of habitat, pesticide exposure, climate change, overgrazing, competition with honey bees, low genetic diversity, and perhaps most significant of all, the introduction and distribution of pathogens through commercial honey bee and bumble bee colonies used for crop pollination. All of these factors likely interact, increasing pollinator vulnerability. To support bumble bees, it is critical to protect existing habitat while creating and maintaining new habitat."
Winkler says "we will be using butterfly nets to catch bees, then move them to small vials, and chill them in coolers with ice, so we can take ID'able photographs of them before releasing." The full protocol is at https://www.cabumblebeeatlas.org/point-surveys.html
What bumble bees might you see May 28 in the Arboretum? Bombus vosnesenskii, the yellow-faced bumble bee, and B. melanopygus, the black-tailed bumble bee. "There is a record of B. crotchii at the arboretum from last year around the same date, which is rare and would be amazing to see!" Winkler said.
The project is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund. Funding is also provided by the Bureau of Land Management and several private foundations. Read more about the project and the list of coordinators here.
Page studies with major professor and pollination ecologist Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Her work suggests that honey bees reduce pollen and nectar availability in flowers, leading to competitive displacement of native bees.
"Competitive displacement of native bees may in turn decrease plant pollination because native bees are often more effective than native bees as pollinators," Page says. "My research suggests that such changes are already occurring for Camassia quamash (small camas) following honey bee introductions in the Sierra Nevada."
Page is scheduled to receive her doctorate in entomology in June 2022 and then begin a postdoctoral fellowship with assistant professor Scott McArt at Cornell University, where she will investigate patterns of interspecific pathogen transmission and how more sustainable beekeeping practices might mitigate the negative effects of competition. McArt recently delivered a seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology on "Pesticide Risk to Pollinators: What We Know and What We Need to Know Better."
In July 2019, Page collaborated with colleagues at Cornell and the University of Minnesota to present a workshop on the intersections of science and social justice, aiming to make science more open and accessible.
Page holds a master's degree in entomology (2019) from UC Davis and a bachelor's degree in biology (2016), cum laude, from Scripps College, Claremont, Calif.
Highly recognized for her work, Page received a three-year $115,000 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, funded by the Department of Defense. She was one of 69 recipients out of more than 3600 applicants. She earlier won a campuswide 2016-17 Graduate Scholars Fellowship of $25,200; a Vansell Scholarship in both 2018 and 2019; and Davis Society Botanical grants in 2017, 2018 and 2019. A 2018 Duffey-Dingle Research Fellowship also helped fund her research (optimizing pollinator plant mixes to simultaneously support wild and managed bees).
Active in the Entomological Society of America and the Ecological Society of America, Page scored a second-place award for her project, "Optimizing Wildflower Plant Mixes to Support Wild and Managed Bees" in a 2021 student competition hosted by the Entomological Society of America. She also presented “Impacts of Honey Bee Introductions on the Pollination of a Sierra Wildflower" at the August 2020 meeting of the Ecological Society of America, and "Can Visitation and Pollen Transport Patterns Predict Plant Pollination?" at the April 2019 meeting of the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America.
A strong supporter of community outreach and STEM, Page has been active in leadership activities in the summer program, Girls Outdoor Adventure and Leadership (GOALS) since August 2017. The free program targets underrepresented teens. Page has served as a program co-organizer, mentor and lecturer. She helped organize the 2021 summer program, led a lecture on introductory data analysis, and assisted students with their community science project (identifying pollinators in urban gardens).
Page was also active in Center for Land-Based Learning, serving as a mentor in the Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship. She mentored high school students, engaging them in hands-on conservation science at Say Hay Farm in Yolo County, and teaching them about how wildflower plantings benefit bees.
Page and postdoctoral researcher Charlie Casey Nicholson of Williams lab co-authored the November 2021 cover story, A Meta-Analysis of Single Visit Pollination Effectiveness Comparing Honeybees and other Floral Visitors, in the American Journal of Botany
It's World Bee Day!
How did that come about?
One word: Slovenia.
The Republic of Slovenia, rich in beekeeping history, asked the United Nations to proclaim an annual World Bee Day, and following a three-year international effort, the United Nations agreed to do so in December 2017.
So May 20 is the annual World Bee Day.
"Slovenia LOVES bees and beekeeping and it seems like California does, too!" says Wendy Mather, program manager of the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP). "There are 72 Apprentice Assistant and 93 Apprentice level candidates vying for their CAMBP certification this year! The '22 season is buzzing."
Mather points out: "World Bee Day is a confirmation that we humans respect and appreciate our dependence on one of our favorite generalist pollinators, the honey bee, for a healthy, diverse diet. Bee health equals human health and we thank all our CAMBP volunteers for their service to humanity in helping to raise awareness of the importance of bee health and science-based beekeeping. Our members are honey bee ambassadors and are committed to environmental stewardship."
Cooperative Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is the founding director of CAMBP. The organization has disseminated science-based beekeeping information through a network of trained volunteers since 2016.
CAMBP's vision is "to train Apprentice, Journey and Master level beekeepers so they can effectively communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators within their communities, serve as mentors for other beekeepers, and become the informational conduit between the beekeeping communities throughout the state and UCCE staff," according to its website.
Beekeepers and prospective beekeepers can sign up for classes, which run from February through October. Upcoming classes (many online but some in person)
- Honey Bee Health, May 21
- All About Varroa, June 4
- Queen Rearing Basics, June 11
- Pesticides, Colony Collapse Disorder, Research and Hope, June 18
- Wax Working, Honey and Hive Products, July 9
- Advanced Anatomy and Physiology of the Honey Bee, Aug. 13
- Seasonal Honey Bee Colony Management in Southern California, Sept. 17
- Broodminder: Apiary Technology and Honey Bee Health, Oct. 15
- Exploring Beekeeping in Person at the South Coast Research and Extension Center, Irvine, Oct. 22
That's it for the 2022 classes. In addition, there's an "Introduction to Mead" class offered Nov. 5. Mead or honey wine, is the world's oldest alcoholic beverage.
Let's hear it for the bees!
If you've ever been to Bodega Head in Sonoma County, you may have marveled at the waves crashing and the whales surfacing.
But have you ever seen the digger bees, Anthophora bomboides stanfordiana, aka bumble bee mimics, that nest in the sandstone cliffs?
They're there. They're foraging on flowers, excavating their nests, and rearing young.
These digger bees are not easy to photograph. On our May 9th trip, we got lucky: our 200mm macro lens picked up a digger bee warming its flight muscles.
"The species name indicates that it is a bumble bee mimic," the late Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), a global authority on bumble bees and a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. "These bees need a source of fresh water nearby. Females suck up water, regurgitate it on the sandstone bank surface, then dig away at the soft mud. They use some of the mud to build entrance turrets, presumably to help them locate their nests within the aggregation of nests."
"The female," Thorp said, "sucks up fresh water from nearby, stores it in her crop (like honey bees store nectar) for transport to the nest. She regurgitates it on the sandstone, and excavates the moistened soil. She carries out the mud and makes the entrance turret with it."
Thorp, a 30-year member of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, studied these bees. (See his presentation at the Proceedings of the Symposium on Biodiversity of Northwestern California, Santa Rosa, delivered in October 1991.)
Today, community ecologist and associate professor Rachel Vannette from the same department, is among scientists engaged in the research of these fascinating bees.
You're in luck.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology, located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis campus, will host four public events from May 28 through July 16. All are free and open to the public. Parking is also free.
Saturday, May 28, 1 to 4 p,m.
Open house, "Bugs in Ag: What Is Eating Our Crops and What Is Eating Them?"
Cooperative Extension specialist and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty will explore the relationships between insects and agriculture. His areas of expertise include field crops; vegetable crops; insects, mites and other arthropods affecting plants; biological control of pests affecting plants; and beneficial insects. Grettenberger, who joined the UC Davis faculty in January 2019, targets a wide variety of pests, including western spotted and striped cucumber, beetles, armyworms, bagrada bugs, alfalfa weevils, aphids, and thrips.
Saturday June 25, 1 to 4 p.m.
Open house, "Eight-Legged Encounters"
This event is all about arachnids featuring scientists from across the country. It is in collaboration with the American Arachnological Society's 2022 meeting, scheduled June 26-30 on the UC Davis campus. The annual meeting will be hosted by two UC Davis arachnologists: Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and associate dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Joel Ledford, assistant professor of teaching, Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
Public event to be held in California Hall for arachnid novices and experts alike. This is in collaboration with the American Arachnological Society's meeting at UC Davis.
Saturday, July 16, 1 to 4 p.m.
"Celebrating 50 Years of the Dogface Butterfly:California's State Insect"
Scientists and the public will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the California State Legislature' designation of the dogface butterfly as the state insect.
Folsom Lake College professor and Bohart scientist Fran Keller, and Bohart associate Greg Karofelas, a volunteer docent for the Placer Land Trust's dogface butterfly tours, will on hand to discuss the butterfly. The California dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, is found only in California. It thrives in the 40-acre Shutamul Bear River Preserve near Auburn, Placer County. The preserve, part of the Placer Land Trust, is closed to the public except for specially arranged tours.
Keller is the author of 35-page children's book, The Story of the Dogface Butterfly, with photos by Keller and Kareofelas, and illustrations by former UC Davis student Laine Bauer. Kareofelas' images include the life cycle of the dogface butterfly that he reared. Keller holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, where she studied with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology.
Kareofelas and Keller also teamed to create a dogface butterfly poster of the male and female. Both the book and the poster are available online from the the Bohart Museum of Entomology gift shop.
California legislators adopted the dogface butterfly as the official state insect on July 28, 1972. But as early as 1929, entomologists had already singled it out as their choice for state insect. Their suggestion appears in the California Blue Book, published by the State Legislature in 1929. (Read more on how the butterfly became the state insect under the Ronald Reagan administration.)
The dogface butterfly is so named because the wings of the male appear to be a silhouette of a poodle. It is also known as "the flying pansy."
Bohart Museum. The Bohart Museum is the home of a worldwide collection of eight million insect specimens, plus a gift shop and a live "petting zoo," comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects and tarantulas.
Bohart Museum Contact information: