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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 looking for plants to attract pollinators, including bees and butterflies, then the UC Davis Arboretum's Plant Sale on Saturday, Oct. 22 is the place to "bee."
A public fall clearance sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive, UC Davis campus. It will feature a "wide selection of Arboretum All-Stars, California natives, and gorgeous drought-tolerant plants," officials said. Members (new members can join at the door) save 10 percent and also reap other benefits.
The sale will include more than 16,500 plants and more than 450 varieties.
Will they have milkweed? Yes.
"It looks like we'll have plenty of milkweed, two varieties--Kotolo (Asclepias eriocarpa) and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)," said Katie Hetrick, director of communications.
Will they have butterfly bush (Buddleia)? Yes.
"We have a ton of Buddleia," said Hetrick, mentioning just a few: Magenta Munchkin, Dark Dynasty, Buzz, Orchid Annie, Purple Haze, Lavender Cupcake--and "The Chips": Lilac Chip, Pink Micro Chip, and Blue Chip Jr.
"And let's not forget all the Salvias!" Hetrick said. "Those are a nectar fave with pollinators including butterflies, bees and hummingbirds!" Among the Salvias on sale: Bee's Bliss, Pacific Blue, Marine Blue, Pozo Blue, Debbie's Rose, Little Kiss, Red Swing, Violet Riot, Royal Bumble, Hot Lips, and Scott's Red.
Taylor Lewis, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden Nursery Manager, related that pipevine, the host plant of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor), will be available.
Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture, listed some of her favorite sunflower family plants that attendees can buy:
- Aster 'Monch'
- Coreopsis, 'Little Penny'
- Coreopsis, 'Enchanted Eve'
- Coreopsis, 'Red Elf'
- Echibeckia, 'Summerina Brown'
- And lots of Echinacea (cone flowers)
For a full list of the plants available, download the PDF.
And, it's interesting to see what folks in the area have planted instead of lawns. The Aboretum's web page offers great ideas.
Do you know how much acres in the United States are planted in lawn? Huffington Post reports in a 2015 news story: "According to a new study from NASA scientists in collaboration with researchers in the Mountain West, there is now an estimated total of 163,812 square kilometers, or more than 63,000 square miles, of lawn in America — about the size of Texas."
All that manicuring, all that water, all that work. And little or no food or shelter for the pollinators.
Every well-manicured lawn "uses up to 900 liters of water per person per day and reduces sequestration effectiveness by up to 35 percent by adding emissions from fertilization and the operation of mowing equipment," Huffington Post says.
Indeed, lawn is our nation's single largest "crop."
But it doesn't have to be. There IS life after lawn. And there is MORE life after lawn.
If you're thinking about adding more bee friendly plants to your garden but you're concerned about the drought, the UC Davis Arboretum has the answers.
The arboretum will host its public spring clearance plant sale on Saturday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive.
You'll find a large election of Christmas natives and Arboretum All-Stars. (Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and the Davis Botanical Society receive 10 percent off their purchases. And yes, you can join the Friends on May 17.)
One of the plants we like--as do the birds and the bees--is Kniphofia "Christmas Cheer," also known as a red hot poker and torch lily. Ellen Zagory, horticulture director of the Arboretum, describes it as "a torch lily on steriods. It gets big and puts out a large display of showy flowers in winter and long into spring."
Yes, it does.
We remember taking a photo of the Christmas Cheer on Christmas Day in the Arboretum's Storer Garden. The bees didn't know about the winter break. Neither did a finch.
Break? What break?
In a recent newsletter, Zagory wrote about some of the plants that will be available for sale.
“On campus we have fairly heavy soil and water that's high in bicarbonates and boron, so I always think…if it grows well here, it will do even better elsewhere. In light of limited water supplies and rising water prices we need to think even harder about plants that can survive with low or very low quantities of water, but they can still be pretty. You'd never know these were drought-tolerant considering the seasonal impact and drama they provide!”
The Arboretum kindly provides a list of available plants that you can download from its web page.
The bees--and the birds, butterflies and others engaged in animal/plant interactions--will thank you.
If you're on your way to Bodega Bay in Sonoma County, stop at Bodega Head and see all the yellow-faced bumble bees on a yellow coastal plant, Eriophyllum, commonly known as the woolly sunflower.
The bumble bees, Bombus vosnesenskii, are back and they particularly like the Eriophyllum. It's probably Eriophyllum staechadifolium, agreed Ellen Dean, curator of the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity, and Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture at the UC Davis Arboretum.
According to Calflora, it's also called lizard tail andseaside golden yarrow as well as seaside woolly sunflower.
We spotted a huge orange pollen load on one yellow-faced bumble bee. Saddle bags!
If you're looking for a good bee plant that offers a little bit of an obstacle, try the violet trumpet vine (Clytostoma calystegioides). It's one of the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars.
What's an Arboretum All-Star? The UC Davis Arboretum horticultural staff, led by Ellen Zagory, singled out "100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum." The All-Stars are "easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden. Many of them are California native plants and support native birds and insects. Most All-Star plants can be successfully planted and grown throughout California."
In addition to hummingbirds, you'll find honey bees all over the purple-veined blossoms. Bees crawl inside a blossom (obstacle course!), forage a bit, and then pop back out, ready for another blossom.
Unlike most UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars, the violet trumpet vine is not a California native. It's from Argentina and the southern part of Brazil.
However, like many vines and trumpet players, it likes to put on a show. Its "show" is climbing walls and trellises and covering the sides of buildings for breathtaking displays. When you visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis, you'll see it trellised.
This is a plant that knows how to survive the winter and "bee" ready to bloom in the late spring and early summer. Call it robust. Call it hardy.
The bees call it food.