The open-to-the-public competition involved searching for the first-of-the-year bumble bee in the two-county area of Yolo or Solano; photographing it; and emailing the image to the Bohart Museum at email@example.com.
The first bumble bee to emerge in this area is usually the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, but another bumble bee, the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii,is out early as well.
Both are considered "spring bees" because that is when their population is the highest, according to Thorp. Then their numbers "tail" the rest of the year.
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and a UC Davis distinguished professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, announced Saturday that "we have the winners."
Not one winner, but two. No one species, but two.
Coincidentally, they each took their photos at exactly 2:30 p.m., Jan. 1 in the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden as the bees foraged on manzanita.
And fittingly, they both knew and worked with Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), a global authority on bees and a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology.
The event also marked the second consecutive year that a member of the Williams lab won. Last year postdoctoral researcher Charlie Casey Nicholson of the Williams lab and the lab of Elina Lastro Niño, claimed the prize by photographing a B. melanopygus at 3:10 p.m., Jan. 14 in a manzanita patch in the Arboretum.
As the 2022 winners, Page and Zagory will each receive a coffee cup designed with the endangered Franklin's bumble bee, a bee that Thorp closely monitored in its small range at the California-Oregon border. The cup features the image of the bee specimen, photographed by Bohart scientist Brennen Dyer, and designed by UC Davis doctoral alumnus Fran Keller, professor at Folsom Lake College.
The television program, Good Day Sacramento, featured the contest on Jan. 3. (See it here.)
Worldwide Collection. The Bohart Museum houses a worldwide collection of 8 million insect specimens, including 112 species of bumble bees, Kimsey said. Thorp spend much of his time at the Bohart where he identified bees and helped colleagues with their research.
Thorp, a 30-year member of the UC Davis faculty, retired in 1994 but continued his work on bees until his death at age 85 at his home in Davis. Known as a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, he co-authored two books in 2014: Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday).
Said Zagory: “I indeed knew Robbin Thorp, one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met. Dr. Thorp invited me to do a page for their book (California Bees And Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists) about the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars (pages 230 -232) and he edited a publication we created at the UC Davis Arboretum called Ten Bees and Ten Plants they Love that can be downloaded from the website at https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/pollinator-gardening.
Page is a 2018 alumnus of The Bee Course, which Thorp co-taught 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. (The 2021 winner--Charlie Casey Nicholson--is a 2015 alumnus of The Bee Course.)
Page said she was “also lucky enough to participate in a "Bumble Bee Blitz" organized by Thorp and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in July 2016 on Mt. Ashland, where we searched for Bombus franklini and Bombus occidentalis-- two very rare West Coast bee species. We unfortunately did not find Bombus franklini, which is now recognized as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.”
Brilliant Scientist. “Robbin was a brilliant scientist and a dedicated advocate for bumble bee conservation,” Page said. “His death was a great loss and I wish more of my career could have overlapped with his time in Davis.”
As a doctoral candidate in entomology, Page researches and investigates “whether European honey bees compete with native bees for floral resources and how we can use well-planned floral enhancements to mitigate negative effects of competition."
How rare is it find Bombus vosnesenskii on Jan. 1?
In an email today, UC Davis doctoral alumnus and Thorp protégé Kim Chacon, said she has seen B. vosnesenskii near San Luis Obispo since Dec 26. She is a lecturer at California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly). "I think it is a very opportunistic species. In my research, that was one of the first emergers, the 6th genus actually. Robbin Thorp had an interesting theory about bumble bees dealing with a virus or other illness which was shifting the dominant species to vosnesenskii. I'm so happy both Ellen and Maureen won-- they are both awesome!"
"My congratulations, too," said bumble bee enthusiast/photographer Allan Jones of Davis, a friend of Thorp's. "I did not even go out considering the chilly weather. I expected it to be on the second day when we got up into the sixties, and with the ground so damp and cold, too. Hats off, brrrr."
Both bumble bee species have also been sighted and photographed in recent years on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 in Benicia, Solano County.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
When the UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, a global authority on bumble bees, died June 7, 2019 at age 85, scientists found a way to memorialize him and what he loved.
The Bohart Museum of Entomology--where Thorp spend much of his time identifying bees, helping scientists, and encouraging guests at open houses to learn about the wonderful world of bees--decided to memorialize him with an annual Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble-Bee-of-the-Year Contest. The first person to photograph a bumble bee in 2021 in the two-county area of Yolo and Solano would win.
And it is only fitting that Charlie Casey Nicholson, who studied bees with Thorp, won. He photographed a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, in a manzanita patch at 3:10 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 14 in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden to claim the honor. The site is near Old Davis Road.
Due to inclement weather, bumble bees are not easy to find this time of year. Neither are they easy to photograph.
In fact, Nicholson noted this was his seventh observation field trip to look for the first bumble bee of the year. He had searched six previous times (three 10-minute observations on the manzanita on each of two other days, Jan. 6 and 7).
As the winner, Nicholson will receive a special Bohart bumble bee coffee cup and a face mask, said contest coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and a UC Davis professor of entomology.
"It is truly an honor to win the contest," said Nicholson. "I was a student of Robbin's during the 17th annual Bee Course in Portal, Ariz. I will never forget him wielding his canopy net."
"The first night (8/17/2015) he gave the opening seminar--a whirlwind tour of what makes a bee. It was so exciting to be at this research station surrounded by people whose names you've read all the time.”
“Robbin helped me learn to pay close attention to the arolia of Anthidiini. As we moved into identifying bees, Robbin was a great teacher as we worked through the dichotomous keys in The Bee Genera of North and Central America: Hymenoptera Apoidea. He always had some morphological signpost that wouldn't give away the 'answer' but would certainly guide you in the right direction."
Charlie holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology (evolution, ecology and behavior), 2010, cum laude, from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York. He received his doctorate in natural resources in 2018 from the University of Vermont, where he was a Gund Institute for Environment graduate fellow. In his dissertation, he examined how landscape and farm management affect the multiple benefits provided by wild bees.
Nicholson joined UC Davis as a postdoctoral scholar in the spring of 2019, and receives funding support from the USDA Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Unit. He recently co-authored a paper, “Natural Hazard Threats to Pollinators and Pollination,” published in the journal Global Change Biology, that analyzed 117 published research papers on natural hazards that threaten pollinators and pollination.
His other interests include multiple dimensions of biodiversity, conservation planning, agricultural management, ecosystem services, and community and landscape ecology.
Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, died June 7, 2019 at his Davis home at age 85. A tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, Thorp was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
He achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death. In 2014, he co-authored two books Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
Every summer from 2002 to 2018, Thorp volunteered his time and expertise to be one of the instructors in The Bee Course. In a 2013 interview with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Thorp said he loved teaching at The Bee Course and praised the co-instructors and students. "Ron McGinley who got his undergraduate degree at UC Davis does most of the initial student contact and scheduling for the course. Steve Buchmann, who got his PhD at UC Davis in 1978, is one of the instructors. There are usually about eight instructors and 22 participants for the course. Most of the time is spent in the lab identifying bees to genus. At least three days are spent in the field so students can see various bees doing their thing, collect them and bring them back to the lab to identify them. It is a great experience for students to interact with instructors and especially with their peers from around the world. Instructors all donate their time to teach in the course, but benefit from the chance to get together with colleagues and a new cohort of interesting students each year. Every class is different (that is, it takes on its own personality) and each student brings something new and different to the mix."
Robbin Thorp would have been proud of what happened on Thursday, Jan. 14.