The boys are back in town.
After the long winter and rainy spring, the boys are back in town.
That would be the male Valley carpenter bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, or what Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, calls "the teddy bear bees."
They're fuzzy green-eyed blonds, while the female of the species is a solid black, a good example of sexual dimorphism.
You've heard folks say of dogs: "Their bark is worse than their bite?" Well, these bees can't sting ("boy bees don't sting"), but they're good bluffers as they buzz around you. They're also good pollinators.
We saw this one nectaring on our tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. He lingered among the honey bees and syrphid flies, and then buzzed off.
He will return.
Seeking more information about California's bees? Read the landmark book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday Press), the work of UC-affiliated authors Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin E. Coville, and Barbara Ertte. The book is available online and at numerous other sites. At UC Davis, you can find it at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, 1124 Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane (and with other bee books at UC Davis Stores)./span>
Next week promises to be memorable week for entomologists at the University of California, Davis.
Oh, how they wish they could clone themselves so they could be in two places at the same time: in San Diego and on the UC Davis campus.
First off is the 103rd annual meeting of the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) meeting in San Diego, which begins Sunday, March 31 and ends Wednesday, April 3. It will take place in the Hyatt Regency Mission bay Spa and Marina. (See schedule.)
Then there's the Entomology Alumni Reunion, with the participants arriving Sunday, March 31 and conferring all-day Monday and Tuesday, April 1-2 for camaraderie and tours. (See schedule.)
At the PBESA meeting, four UC Davis entomologists will be honored at the awards ceremony on Tuesday from 1 to 1:30 in the Regatta Pavillion:
- Molecular geneticist/physiologist Joanna Chiu, associate professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who will receive the Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Award
- Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, professor, the Plant-Insect Ecosystems AwardD
- Doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot of the Phil Ward lab, the John Henry Comstock Graduate Student Award; and
- Postdoctoral researcher Jessica Gillung (she received her doctorate from UC Davis in Decemberr, studying with major professor Lynn Kimsey), the Early Career Award. Gillung joined the Bryan Danforth Lab, Cornell University in January. (See news story.)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp of UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology will be honored at a special PBESA symposium, set from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2 in Bayview 1. Neal Williams is organizing the event. (See news story.)
The national championship UC Linnaean Games Team, comprised of UC Berkeley and UC Davis graduate students, is scheduled to compete, with the winner and second-place finisher qualified to compete in the nationals, to be held during the Entomological Society of America meeting in November in St. Louis. The UC team includes captain Ralph Washington Jr., who holds an entomology degree from UC Davis and is now a graduate student at UC Berkeley; and doctoral candidate Brendon Boudinot and graduate student Zachary Griebenow, both of the Phil Ward lab, UC Davis. The Linnaean Games are lively college bowl-style competitions on entomological facts played between university-sponsored student teams. (See news story)
Entomology Alumni Reunion
The third UC Davis Entomology Alumni Reunion is co-chaired by Will Crites and Arnold Menke. Forensic entomologist and adjunct professor Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will keynote the banquet on Tuesday, April 2 in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. He is known as "The Fly Man of Alcatraz" for his entomological research on the island. (See news story.) Kimsey serves as the advisor of the UC Davis Entomology Club.
The alumni will tour several campus facilities, including the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, and the Shrem Museum of Art. (See updated agenda)
Department One of Best in the World
The UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology is one of the best in the world. The most recent rankings by the Times Higher Education's Center for World University Rankings shows UC Davis as No. 7 globally.
Number of entomology faculty: 19
Number of nematology faculty: 3
Number of students enrolled in the doctorate program: 33
Number of students in the master's program: 4
Students enrolled in the entomology major: 38
Number of staff: 73
New to the department, as of March, is nematologist and assistant professor Shahid Siddique, from Iowa State University's Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. His areas of expertise include molecular plant-nematode interactions, plant parasitic nematodes.
Professor Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, joined the faculty in mid-2018. He is known for his expertise on spiders./span>
When the 103rd annual meeting of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA) takes place March 31-April 3 in the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina, San Diego, something very special will happen.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology and a global authority on bumble bees and other native pollinators, will be honored at a special symposium being planned by his colleague, pollination ecologist Neal Williams, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The event is set for Tuesday afternoon, April 2.
“The symposium will include scientific contributions from leaders in the fields of bee ecology, conservation and pollination,” announced Williams. “All are individuals whose work and specialty have been influenced by Robbin and his research program."
The scientists speaking include:
- Neal Williams, UC Davis
- Claire Kremen, University of British Columbia, formerly of UC Berkeley
- James Strange, USDA's Agricultural Research Service
- Heidi Dobson, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
- Gretchen Lebuhn, San Francisco State University
- Richard Hatfield, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
- Terry Griswold, USDA's Agricultural Research Service
- Leslie Saul-Gershenz, UC Davis
- Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley
Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, achieved emeritus status in 1994 but has continued to engage in research, teaching and public service. In his retirement, 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).
Thorp, a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, is known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He is an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, contribution of native bees to crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes. He is active in research projects and open houses at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Thorp received his bachelor of science degree in zoology (1955) and his master's degree in zoology (1957) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He earned his doctorate in entomology in 1964 from UC Berkeley, the same year he joined the UC Davis entomology faculty. He taught courses from 1970 to 2006 on insect classification, general entomology, natural history of insects, field entomology, California insect diversity, and pollination ecology.
Every summer since 2002, Thorp has 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 who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees.
An authority on Franklin's bumble bee, Bombus franklini, Thorp has monitored the bumble bee population since 1998 in its narrow distribution range of southern Oregon and northern California. He has not seen it since 2006 and it is feared extinct. In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter followed him to a meadow where Thorp last saw Franklin's bumble bee. He wrote about Thorp, then 82, in a piece he called "The Old Man and the Bee," a spinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea."
Thorp was instrumental in placing the bumble bee on the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Long active in the North America IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group, Thorp served as its regional co-chair, beginning in 2011.
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 include: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won PBESA's Team Award in 2013. In addition, he is 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.
Since its inception, Thorp has been involved in 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, installed in 2009. To establish a baseline, he began monitoring the site for bees in 2008. He has since detected more than 80 species of bees.
Thorp has identified thousands and thousands of native bees for scientists, citizen scientists, and the general public, in addition to his other work involving research, teaching, mentoring and public service.
And now he will be honored at a special PBESA symposium. PBESA encompasses 11 Western U.S. states, plus several U.S. territories and parts of Canada and Mexico.
It's an honor well deserved./span>
Several UC Davis bumble bee enthusiasts--encouraged by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology--compete every January to find the first bumble bee of the year in Yolo and Solano counties.
It's a friendly competition. Gamers include Allan Jones, Gary Zamzow, both of Davis, and yours truly.
We have a winner!
On Thursday, Jan. 10 doctoral student Kim Chacon photographed a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, on manzanita blossoms in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden.
What a delightful find! And in between the rain drops!
This species is native to western North America, ranging from California to British Columbia and as far east as Idaho. It's commonly found on manzanitas, wild lilacs, wild buckwheats, lupines, penstemons, clovers, and sages, among others.
Chacon actually spotted an earlier bumble bee on Jan. 9 at 2:10 p.m. in the UC Davis Arboreutm, but had only her cell phone with her that day. It was a Bombus melanopygus on Arbutus in the Ericaceae section.
She captured some images with her cell phone, but "there was a big downpour about 15 minutes and I didn't bring my good camera, so I went home for the day. I know from my research that this particular location in the Arboretum is a hot spot for bees. The banks and flowering vegetation get plenty of sun. There are three possible spots in the Arboretum, according to my research, and this one had blooming flowers first."
But on Jan. 10, "I woke up determined to get good photos with my good camera!" She walked over to the Ericaceae section again in the Arboretum and spotted a Bombus melanopygus at 3:58 p.m. (See photos below)
Chacon, a UC Davis PhD student in geography, studies "habitat connectivity issues for bees at a landscape scale."
"Lack of habitat connectivity is listed as the main reason for native bee declines and yet, thus far solutions only include stand alone gardens, with randomly spaced unspecified plant species," she commented. "A spatial habitat problem such as destruction and fragmentation needs a spatial solution. I am working on solving this complex problem with the help of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Part of my research involved weekly monitoring bee visitation of bees throughout the UC Davis Arboretum for one full year. I learned about the trends of bee-flower visitation within each unique themed garden, specifically, how they function as novel ecosystems. When I graduate I hope to design effectively connected landscape habitat for bees. I would also love to design educational gardens, showcasing bee diversity!"
Chacon is a 2018 alumnus of The Bee Course, a nine-day intensive workshop affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz. It's offered for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists, and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees. This year's dates are Aug. 18-28, and the deadline to apply is March 1, 2019.
Thorp is one of the veteran instructors of The Bee Course; he has taught there annually since 2002. A member of the UC Davis entomology faculty from 1964 to 1994 and internationally recognized for his expertise on bees, he achieved "distinguished emeritus professor" status in 2015. He co-authored the UC California book, California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday) and Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press).
Thorp continues his research, writings and bee identification at his office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis.
It was the morning of Jan. 1, 2018, a year and four days ago.
While strolling the grounds of the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park, we captured images of yellow-faced bumble bees, Bombus vosnesenskii, nectaring on jade, Crassula ovata. They were packing cream-colored pollen from the jade. The same day, we spotted the same species nectaring on rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, by the Benicia marina, but packing orange pollen, probably from the nearby California golden poppies.
Thus began our Year of the Insects.
So far this year, we haven't spotted a single bumble bee in Solano or Yolo counties. It's too early in the season (except for hot spots in Benicia, Solano County, where even some almond trees bloom on Jan. 1!)
Nowadays, though, the talk isn't just about "bumble Bees," the insect, but "Bumblebee," the movie, as in the 2018 American science fiction action film. It's about a Transformers' character of the same name, described as "battle-scarred and broken."
Why is the insect spelled "bumble bee," two words? The Entomological Association of America (ESA), in its newsletter, Entomology Today, explains: "...entomologists use two words if a common name accurately describes the order to which a particular insect belongs. For example, all true flies belong to the order Diptera, so true fly names will be spelled using two words by entomologists--house fly, horse fly, pigeon fly, or stable fly, for example. However, despite their names, dragonflies and butterflies are NOT true flies --their orders are Odonata and Lepidoptera, respectively — so they are spelled as one word." (Check out the ESA Comman Names of Insects Database.)
So there you have it: bumble bee, the insect, and Bumblebee, the movie.
And sometimes there's a serendipity moment when the two meet.
We remember back in April of 2017 when native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Nematology and Nematology, was displaying bumble bees at a Bohart Museum of Entomology open house.
Thorp, a global authority on bumble bees, is the author of Bumble Bees of North America: an Identification Guide (Princeton University) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday).
So was he ever surprised when in a defining moment, 6-year-old Adne Burruss of Irvine (his mother, Sigrid, is a geneticist and UC Davis alumna) walked up to him wearing a Bumblebee t-shirt. Adne wanted to look at the "other" bumble bees.
So do we! So do we!