The late Robbin Thorp, the renowned UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology and global bee authority who will be memorialized at a celebration of life on Friday, Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. in the Putah Creek Lodge, UC Davis, began his career studying honey bees.
Professor Thorp, who served as a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death on June 7. In his retirement, he co-authored two books, both in 2014: Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
Thorp was a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation and 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.
The distinguished emeritus professor was also an authority on honey bees.
Said Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus: "We should not forget that Robbin originally was hired to work on honey bees, and he did. His greatest area of expertise was the use of honey bees in almond pollination. Robbin determined that until the colonies reached the population size of six frames of bees, they did not have enough spare bees to serve as foragers (pollinate almonds) since they were all needed to keep the brood warm."
"He also noted that the amount of pollen collected by the bees in a colony was pretty much in direct proportion to colony size, peaking at between 10 and 12 frames of bees," Mussen said. "It was obvious to Robbin that the bees still visited almond blossoms for nectar, days after there was no pollen left in the flowers and the stigmata were no longer young enough to be pollinated. Other studies determined which blossoms along the branches were pollinated earlier and later during the season. All of those studies were very well designed and the results contributed significantly to our recommendations to growers and beekeepers for obtaining maximum benefit from the bees."
“Robbin's scientific achievements during his retirement rival the typical career productivity of many other academic scientists,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “His contributions in support of understanding bee biodiversity and systematics are a true scientific legacy.” (See more about Robbin Thorp)
Robbin Thorp was a treasure, a gem in the entomological world of bees and beyond./span>
Bugs and bees. Bees and bugs.
That's what's on the menu--or that's what's buzzing--over the next few weeks in the Davis/Berkeley area.
Saturday, Sept. 21
Open House, Bohart Museum of Entomology Open House, UC Davis
Or, you can view the global collection of insect specimens, cuddle a critter at the live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas) or buy a t-shirt, poster, jewelry, book, insect-collecting equipment and more in the gift shop.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses some eight million insect specimens, collected from all over the world.
Wednesday, Sept. 25
Bee Seminar at UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
This is the first seminar in the series of fall quarter seminars sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and coordinated by Rachel Vannette, assistant professor.
"In addition to the classical arm race that has evolved between predators and prey, information races also occur, which can lead to the evolution of sophisticated animal communication," Nieh says in his abstract. "Such information can shape the food web and contribute to the evolution of remarkable communication strategies, including eavesdropping, referential signaling and communication within and between species, including between predators and prey." Assistant professor Brian Johnson is the host.
Saturday, Sept. 28
Open House, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, UC Davis
It will include sales of plants and native bee condos, honey tasting, catch-and-release bee observation and identification, and beekeeping and research displays. Several mini lectures are planned. Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño serves as the faculty director of the bee garden, and Christine Casey as the manager. Casey announced today:
- See our analemmatic sundial, the only one of its kind in the Sacramento area. Speak with dial master and beekeeper Rick Williams, M.D., to learn about how the dial was created and the links between human and bee perception of the sun.
- Representatives from the California Master Beekeepers' Association will provide an introduction to beekeeping and do openings of the Haven's bee hive.
- Learn about our research on bee use of ornamental landscape plants
- Buy bee-supporting plants and solitary bee houses for your own garden
- Sample local honey from Sola Bee Honey
- Donate a book on insects, gardening, or nature for our Little Free Library
The garden was installed in the fall of 2019 under the direction of then interim department chair Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. A ceramic-mosaic sculpture of a six-foot long worker bee, the work of Donna Billick of Davis, anchors the garden. Its title: "Miss Bee Haven." The garden is open from dawn to dusk.
Sunday, Oct. 13
Second Annual Bay Area Bee Fair, Berkeley Flea Market
There will be kids' art activities, pollinator-themed art, and "education and inspiration for supporting bee and other pollinator populations." It's a place to learn about planting pollinator-friendly gardens and creating shelter/habitats.
One of the guest speakers will be bee scientist/professor Gordon Frankie of UC Berkeley, who co-authored the popular California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists with Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter.
It's a tough world out there for pollinators.
Take it from UC San Diego bee scientist James Nieh, who will be on the UC Davis campus next week to speak on "Animal Information Warfare: How Sophisticated Communications May Arise from the Race to Find an Advantage in a Deadly Game Between Honey Bees and Their Predators."
His seminar, part of the fall quarter seminar series hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will take place at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 25 in 122 Briggs Hall, Kleiber Hall Drive. Fellow bee scientist Brian Johnson, associate professor of entomology, is the host.
"In addition to the classical arm race that has evolved between predators and prey, information races also occur, which can lead to the evolution of sophisticated animal communication," says Nieh, a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, Division of Biological Sciences. "Such information can shape the food web and contribute to the evolution of remarkable communication strategies, including eavesdropping, referential signaling and communication within and between species, including between predators and prey."
"I focus on the world of information exchange (acoustic, olfactory and visual) that has co-evolved between Asian honey bees (Apis cerana, A. florea, and A. dorsata) and their predators, the Asian hornets (Vespa velutina and V. mandarinia)," Nieh says in his abstract. "I will explore how and why such information races occur through the remarkable examples provided by these high social insects."
He presented a TED talk on "Bees and Us: an Ancient and Future Symbiosis" in July 2019.
A native of Taiwan, Nieh grew up in Southern California and received his bachelor's degree in organismic and evolutionary biology in 1991 from Harvard University, Cambridge, and his doctorate in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., in 1997. He subsequently received a NSF-NATO postdoctoral fellowship to study at the University of Würzburg in Germany. A Harvard junior fellowship followed.
Nieh joined the faculty of the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution in 1997 as an assistant professor, advancing to associate professor in 2007 and professor in 2009. He served as vice chair of the section from 2009 to 2014, and as chair from 2014 to 2017.
His latest co-authored research, published in the journal Chemosphere in 2019, is titled Combined Nutritional Stress and a New Systemic Pesticide (flupyradifurone, Sivanto®) Reduce Bee Survival, Food Consumption, Flight Success, and Thermoregulation.
Assistant professor Rachel Vannette is coordinating the fall quarter seminars. Nieh's seminar is the first of the fall quarter. (See list of seminars.) Vannette may be reached at email@example.com.
Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, was a global authority on bees and he generously shared his expertise with others.
"Robbin had a long, well-respected career in pollination biology and bee taxonomy, but when he retired, he became even more engaged," said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. "He became the go-to person for everyone working on pollination in the western states. Many careers were made with his assistance."
"I've known Robbin since I was a graduate student at UC Davis," Kimsey said. "Even though he wasn't my major professor, my project was on bees and he was incredibly helpful and supportive. His enthusiasm about pollinators and bees in particular actually grew after he retired, and he continued helping students and researchers and was the backbone of so much research. His support and kindness was matched by his undemanding assistance and expertise. What a terrible loss to his family and to the research and conservation communities."
Now Kimsey is coordinating the celebration of life for Thorp. It will take place from 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11 in the Putah Creek Lodge, located on Putah Creek Lodge Drive, southwest section of the UC Davis Arboretum.
Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death.
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.
“Robbin's scientific achievements during his retirement rival the typical career productivity of many other academic scientists,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “His contributions in support of understanding bee biodiversity and systematics are a true scientific legacy.
In his retirement, Thorp 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). Locally, he was active in research projects and open houses at the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden on Bee Biology Road operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He detected and identified more than 80 species of bees in the haven.
Colleague Norman Gary, UC Davis emeritus professor of entomology, earlier said that "I doubt that there is anyone else in the world who can compete with his expertise in the systematics of the 20,000 species of bees on this earth."
"Robbin was one of the few people in North America who could identify bees down to the species level,” said former graduate student Katharina Ullmann, director of the UC Davis Student Farm, Agricultural Sustainability Institute, and a UC Davis alumnus (doctorate in entomology).
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. The intensive 9-day workshop, considered the world's premiere native bee biology and taxonomic course, is geared for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists.
Highly honored by his peers, Thorp was named a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco in 1986; recipient of the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship of UC Davis in 2010; and recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. Other honors included: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won PBESA's Team Award in 2013. In addition, he was a past president (2010-2011) of the Davis Botanical Society, and former chair (1992-2011) of the Advisory Committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.
Williams said the PBESA symposium was “perhaps the greatest honor one can receive from close colleagues--a special symposium honoring him and his contributions to the field of bee biology and pollination. We designed the symposium to honor the impact of Dr. Thorp, on the field of bee biology and conservation, but at the same time present innovative research that brings together bee and pollination biology researchers."
An authority on the critically imperiled Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, Thorp began monitoring the bumble bee population in 1998 in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. He had not seen it since 2006 and was instrumental in placing the bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He was the former regional co-chair of the North America IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group.
In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to a meadow where Thorp last saw Franklin's bumble bee. Sutter wrote about Thorp, then 82, in a piece he titled "The Old Man and the Bee," a spinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
His wife, Joyce, 84, preceded him in death on Dec. 9, 2018. Survivors include three children, Kelly, Katie and Jeff, and stepchildren Donna Gary and Steve Gary.
Nine speakers are booked for the fall quarter seminars sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The seminars begin Wednesday, Sept. 25 and continue through Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Coordinated by assistant professor and community ecologist Rachel Vannette, the seminars will take place at 4:10 p.m., every Wednesday in Room 122 of Briggs Hall except on Nov. 20 (no seminar due to the Entomological Society of America meeting in St. Louis, Mo).
James Nieh, professor, Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution, Department of Biological Sciences, UC San Diego
Topic: "Animal Information Warfare: How Sophisticated Communication May Arise from the Race to Find an Advantage in a Deadly Game Between Honey Bees and their Predators" (See lab website)
Host: Brian Johnson, associate professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
Nathan Schroeder, assistant professor, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Topic: "Stem Cells and Neurobiology of Nematodes"
Host: Shahid Saddique, assistant professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
John Mola, doctoral candidate, Neal Williams lab, Graduate Group in Ecology
Exit seminar: "Bumble Bee Movement Ecology and Response to Wildfire." Mola specializes in bee biology, pollinator ecology and population genetics.
Host: Neal Williams, professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
Rebecca Irwin, professor, applied ecology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C.
Topic: (to be announced; she specializes in the ecology and evolution of multiple-species interactions, pollination biology, and species invasions)
Host: Rachel Vannette, assistant professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
Julián Hillyer, director of the program in career development and associate professor of biological sciences, Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology and Inflammation, Nashville, Tenn.
Topic: "Not So Heartless: Functional Integration of the Immune and Circulatory Systems of Mosquitoes"
Host: Olivia Winokur, graduate student, Chris Barker lab
Takato Imaizumi, professor, Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle
Topic: Circadian Timing Mechanisms in Plant-Pollinator Interaction"
Host: Joanna Chiu, associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology
Brock Harpur, assistant professor, Department of Entomology, Purdue University
Topic: "Caste Differentiation in Honey Bees from the Bottom Up"
Host: Santiago Ramirez, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences
Allison Hansen, assistant professor, Department of Entomology, UC Riverside
Topic: Insect Herbivore-Microbe Interactions
Host: Clare Casteeel, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology
No seminar (meeting of Entomological Society of America in St. Louis, Mo.)
Jackson Audley, doctoral candidate, Louie Yang lab and Steve Seybold lab
Exit seminar (topic to be announced). Audley studies the walnut twig beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis, which in association with the fungus, Geosmithia morbida, causes the insect-pathogen complex known as thousand cankers disease.)
Host: Steve Seybold, lecturer, forest entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and forest entomologist and chemical ecologist with the Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Davis
The seminars are free and open to all interested persons. Some will be recorded for later viewing on YouTube. More information on the fall seminars or schedule is available from Vannette at firstname.lastname@example.org.