In memory of native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, the Bohart Museum of Entomology is sponsoring the inaugural Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble-Bee-of-the-Year Contest.
Professor Thorp, 85, who died June 7, 2019, was a global authority on bumble bees, and always looked forward to seeing the first bumble bee of the year. He launched an impromptu contest several years ago with a small group of bumble bee enthusiasts/photographers from Yolo and Solano counties.
Now the Bohart Museum, where Thorp spent much of his time identifying bees and helping others, is sponsoring the contest. Participants are to capture an image of a bumble bee in the wild in either Yolo or Solano counties and email the image to email@example.com, with the details of time, date and place. The image must be recognizable as a bumble bee. The winner receives bragging rights and a special gift from the Bohart Museum, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart and UC Davis professor of entomology. Plans call for a Bohart coffee mug with a bumble bee image.
The first bumble bee to emerge in this area is the black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus. Native to western North America and found from California to British Columbia and as far east as Idaho, it forages on manzanitas, wild lilacs, wild buckwheats, lupines, penstemons, clovers, and sages, among others.
Thorp, a 30-year member of the UC Davis entomology faculty, from 1964-1994, 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). He 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, he 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.
Thorp co-taught The Bee Course from 2002 to 2019, an intensive nine-day workshop affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History and held annually at the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz.
Kimsey, who first met Thorp when she was a graduate student at UC Davis, said that although he wasn't her 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."
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 Franklin's 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.
In August of 2016 a documentary crew from CNN, headed by John Sutter, followed Thorp to a meadow where he last saw Franklin's bumble bee. Sutter wrote about Dr. Thorp, then 82, in a piece he titled "The Old Man and the Bee," aspinoff of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." (See "Will Franklin's Bumble Bee Ever Be Seen Again?"on YouTube by EarthFixMedia.)
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 the Team Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) 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.
UC Davis professor and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, who organized a special symposium in Thorp's honor at the 2019 PBESA meeting in San Diego, praised his “tireless efforts in research, advocacy and education” and how he “inspired a new generation of bee researchers.”
The UC Davis winners, all doctoral students, are Erin Taylor Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo lab, Hyoseok Lee of the Christian Nansen lab, Jill Oberski of the Phil Ward lab, Lacie Newton of the Jason Bond lab, and Clara Stuligross of the Neal Williams lab.
- Kelly won first place for her poster, “Metabolic Snapshot: Using Metabolomics to Compare Near-Wild and Colonized Aedes aegypti,” in the Physiology, Biochemistry and Ecology Section.
- Lee won first place for his entry, “Predicting Spring Migration of Beet Leafhoppers, Circulifer tenellus (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) from Natural Overwintering Sites into Tomato fields in California" in the Graduate 10-Minute Papers category of the Plant-Insect Ecosystems, Behavioral Ecology Section
- Oberski won first place for her entry, “Why Do Museum Collections Matter?” in the Graduate Infographics category, Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Section.
- Newton won second place for her entry, “Integrative Species Delimitation Reveals Cryptic Diversity in the Southern Appalachian Antrodiaetus unicolor (Araneae: Antrodiaetidae) Species Complex,” in the Graduate 10-Minute Papers category in the Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity Section, Genomics.
- Stuligross won second place for her entry, "Larval Pesticide Exposure Reduces Adult Wild Bee Reproduction,” in the Graduate 10-Minute Papers category in the Plant-Insect Ecosystems, Pollinators 2 Section.
The first-place winners received a $75 cash prize, a one-year membership in ESA and a certificate, while the second-place winners won a year's membership and a certificate.
Erin Taylor Kelly of the Geoffrey Attardo lab expects to receive her doctorate in June 2023. She holds a bachelor of science degree in biology (2016) from Santa Clara University, where she minored in chemistry, with an emphasis in molecular an cell biology.
On her Aedes aegypti poster:
Research in our lab has identified significant variability in the resistance phenotype of mosquitoes with target-site mutations, prompting us to wonder about the metabolic mechanisms involved in resistance in California populations of Aedes aegypti. The resistance phenotype is thought to have multiple fitness costs, including reduced fecundity, adult body size and longevity (6–9). We hypothesize that looking at the insect's metabolome may allow us to better understand the physiology behind these potential fitness costs by providing a snap shot of the insect's metabolite composition and insight into pathway demands and energetic deficiencies. Metabolomics has the benefit of providing insight into mosquito biology at the level of phenotype.
Hyoseok Lee, who joined the Christian Nansen lab in 2017, holds a master's degree in entomology (2014) from Seoul National University.
Most of tomato production in California occurs in the Central Valley, which has “the foothills” as its western boundary. Beet leafhoppers overwinter in green natural vegetation in the foothills and migrate into crop fields, including tomato, during spring as natural vegetation dries out and green crop vegetation becomes available. In this study, we built a simulation model predicting spring migration of beet leafhoppers based on vegetation greenness in the foothills. Vegetation greenness (EVI, Enhanced vegetation index) in the foothills was calculated based on analyses of satellite imagery. Spring migration of s was monitored at three different locations in the foothills for two years using yellow sticky cards. Spring migration of beet leafhoppers was well described by the Weibull function. At all monitoring locations, the spring migration was started when the EVI values dropped to 0.2, and the proportion of migrating beet leafhoppers rapidly increased as the EVI values decreased. Our study indicates that the decrease in vegetation greenness triggers spring migration of beet leafhoppers and shows great potential for developing an early warning system.
Why Do Museum Collections Matter?
"Cabinets of curiosity” and natural history museums are the original basis of our knowledge of global biodiversity. Such collections, however, are more than just well-organized dead organisms. Museums are enormous libraries of identified species, localities, and dates, constantly updated and reorganized based on the best new information. These data inform countless fields of research, and can even answer future questions no one has yet thought to ask. Most importantly, they preserve irreplaceable type specimens, which are a crucial part of species description. Now that many of these insect collections are being digitized and accessed from around the globe, why is it necessary to maintain them as physical materials? While many datasets do lend themselves well to digitization, insect specimens experience significant data loss. Most commonly, photographs are taken of the specimens, but photos are usually inadequate for discerning taxonomic features. Even high-resolution 3D scans are no substitute for direct observations. Finally, museums are centers of education and public outreach. Through collections, biology students and communities can physically experience global insect biodiversity they might not otherwise see, regardless of location or mobility. The “wow” factor of magnificent specimens is most powerful in person. As our lives become increasingly computer-oriented, we must recognize that to enjoy and study nature, no digital replacement will suffice.
Lacie Newton of the Jason Bond lab, expects to obtain her doctorate in entomology in June 2022. She holds a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences (2016) from Millsaps College, Jackson, Miss.
Although species delimitation can be highly contentious, the development of reliable methods to accurately ascertain species boundaries is an imperative step in cataloguing and describing Earth's quickly disappearing biodiversity. Spider species delimitation remains largely based on morphological characters; however, many mygalomorph spider populations are morphologically indistinguishable from each other yet have considerable molecular divergence. The focus of our study, the Antrodiaetus unicolor species complex containing two sympatric species, exhibits this pattern of relative morphological stasis with considerable genetic divergence across its distribution. A past study using two molecular markers, COI and 28S, revealed that A. unicolor is paraphyletic with respect to A. microunicolor. To better investigate species boundaries in the complex, we implement the cohesion species concept and use multiple lines of evidence for testing genetic exchangeability and ecological interchangeability. Our integrative approach includes extensively sampling homologous loci across the genome using a RADseq approach (3RAD), assessing population structure across their geographic range using multiple genetic clustering analyses that include structure, principal components analysis and a recently developed unsupervised machine learning approach (Variational Autoencoder). We evaluate ecological similarity by using large‐scale ecological data for niche‐based distribution modelling. Based on our analyses, we conclude that this complex has at least one additional species as well as confirm species delimitations based on previous less comprehensive approaches. Our study demonstrates the efficacy of genomic‐scale data for recognizing cryptic species, suggesting that species delimitation with one data type may underestimate true species diversity in morphologically homogenous taxa with low vagility.
Clara Stuligross, who joined the Neal Williams lab in 2016, received her bachelor of science degree in environmental studies, with minors in biology and outdoor education, in 2014 from Earlham College, Richmond, Ind.
Bees encounter pesticides across landscapes as they forage for pollen and nectar. Exposure to pesticides has negative effects on wild bees, but little is known about the effects of chronic larval exposure on adult performance. We investigated the effects of larval and adult pesticide exposure on the foraging and reproduction of the solitary bee, Osmia lignaria. We established nesting O. lignaria females in 16 field cages containing wildflowers treated with or without imidacloprid, the most widely used neonicotinoid insecticide. As larvae, these parent bees were reared on provisions containing imidacloprid or controls. Larval and adult pesticide exposure directly affected bee nesting activity. Bees exposed to pesticides as adults were less likely to start nesting and produced fewer offspring. Additionally, bees exposed to pesticides as larvae provisioned fewer offspring than unexposed controls. Our research provides experimental evidence of the effects of pesticide exposure on solitary bees across multiple life stages, a critical step in understanding mechanisms underlying pollinator health.
The Entomological Society of America, headquartered in Annapolis, Md., and founded in 1889, is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. They include educators, extension personnel, consultants, students, researchers, and scientists from agricultural departments, health agencies, private industries, colleges and universities, and state and federal governments. It is a scientific and educational resource for all insect-related topics. For more information, visit www.entsoc.org.
As environmental artists, bees are "responsible for the brilliantly colored flowers in our landscapes," and as environmental engineers, they engineer “the niches of multitudes of plants, animals and microbes.”
Page, with UC Davis roots and Arizona State University wings, has just authored a 256-page book, “The Art of the Bee: Shaping the Environment from Landscapes to Societies” (Oxford University Press), to be published Aug. 6.
“It's a long time in the making,” said Page, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis and served as a professor and chair of the Department of Entomology (now Entomology and Nematology) before heading to Arizona State University (ASU), where he advanced to school director, college dean and university provost.
“Twenty-five years ago, my friend and mentor Harry Laidlaw (for whom the UC Davis bee facility is named) wanted to write a honey bee biology textbook,” Page recalled. When they finished the outline, “it looked very much like the excellent book by Mark Winston The Biology of the Honey Bee, published in 1987 by Harvard University Press. I decided we didn't need another one, and we still don't.”
The book differs in that it's a collection of “sparkling essays” that “read like mystery stories,” said Rudiger Wehner, professor and director emeritus of the Institute of Zoology, University of Zürich. “With these lucidly written stories, Page takes us on a delightful journey through the many biological traits that on the whole constitute the honeybees' social contract.”
“But don't be fooled by the amiable and personal style—the book is comprehensive—from colony collapse disorder to colony-level evolution—and chock full of the latest results, presented with clarity and depth, leavened with razor-sharp insights into social evolution,” noted Gene Robinson, director, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Page said his book is geared toward “the person who has a basic knowledge of biology and a fascination with bees, perhaps an educated hobby beekeeper--there are a lot of them--or an undergraduate or graduate student with an interest.”
In addition to chapters on environmental artists and environmental engineering, Page includes chapters on social contracts, superorganisms, reproductive competitions, and concludes with “The song of the queen.”
In the epilogue, Page ponders the complexity of individual bees and their colonies, comparing them to humans. “Members of complex societies live close together in closed nests, shared home sites, villages, etc., or in closely connected nomadic tribes. As groups, they typically have a set of tacit rules by which they live that involves working for the good of the group, systems of group and resource defense, internal mechanisms of policing cheaters that don't cooperate and live by the rules, a division of labor often associated with group defense and gathering and sharing resources, and usually asymmetries and rules associated with reproduction. These same general characteristics seem to apply broadly across eusocial insects (aphids, termites, bees, ants, and wasps), eusocial rodents (naked mole rats), higher apes, and humans. Why? The similarities are inescapable due to the nature of social contracts; they must have specific elements to protect the power and will of individuals, whether citizens of the United States of America or workers in a honey bee colony. The contract binds individuals to a society, but the specific social organization evolves by reverse engineering. Natural selection acts on the whole colony; social structure evolves to fit the needs of the group within a given environment. “
Page points out that “Anthropocentric thinking can obscure the way we view nature and lead to false conclusions. Look at Aristotle and honey bee division of labor: For more than 2,000 years it was thought that the bees that work in the nest were postpubescent old men because they're hairy! In fact, the older bees forage and aren't hairy because the hairs break off as they age. I now see my work in a new light; we aren't so different, bees and humans. The elements of our social structures, and how they come about, have many similarities.”
Page is known for his research on honey bee behavior and population genetics, particularly the evolution of complex social behavior. One of his most salient contributions to science was to construct the first genomic map of the honey bee, which sparked a variety of pioneering contributions not only to insect biology but to genetics at large.
At UC Davis, he maintained a honey bee-breeding program for 24 years, from 1989 to 2015, managed by bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. They discovered a link between social behavior and maternal traits in bees.
UC Davis named him the 2019 distinguished emeritus professor. Nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, praised Page as “a pioneer researcher in the field of behavioral genetics, an internationally recognized scholar, a highly respected author, a talented and innovative administrator, and a skilled teacher responsible for mentoring many of today's top bee scientists…he is arguably the most influential honey bee biologist of the past 30 years.”
Page has authored more than 250 research papers, including five books. Among them “The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms of Social Evolution” (Harvard University Press, 2013) and “Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding,” with Harry H. Laidlaw (Wicwas Press, 1997). He is a highly cited author on such topics as Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination, and division of labor in insect societies.
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1980, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989 and left as emeritus chair of the Department of Entomology in 2004 when ASU recruited him for what would become a series of top-level administrative roles. He advanced from director of the School of Life Sciences to dean of Life Sciences; vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and university provost. Today he holds the titles of provost emeritus of ASU and Regents professor emeritus, as well as UC Davis department chair emeritus, professor emeritus, and UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor.
Page is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Science, Leopoldina (the German National Academic of Science), and the California Academy of Science. He is a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award (Humboldt Prize, 1995), the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Fellowship (2013), James W. Creasman Award of Excellence at ASU (2018).
But if you're Jasmin Ramirez Bonilla, a UC Davis graduate student in entomology, you're seeking to control these agricultural pests through more effective integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.
Jasmin, who plans to complete her master's degree in the spring of 2022, recently presented her thesis proposal, “Advancing Integrated Pest Management Strategies for Cucumber Beetles in California,” to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology at a Zoom session.
“The beetle of focus for my thesis is the Western striped cucumber beetle, Acalymma trivittatum,” said Jasmin, who studies with major professor and agricultural entomologist Ian Grettenberger, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “A second species, the Western spotted cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata--a milder pest but still a pest of melons-- is also part of my project but not the primary subject of my studies.”
Her thesis project consists of three objectives:
- Characterize the non-crop and overwintering habitat
- Clarify short-distance dispersal dynamics after harvest
- Evaluate the utility of the aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone
Both species feed on muskmelons, Cucumis melo. “These include honeydew melon, cantaloupe, crenshaw, and cassava,” she said. “However, Acalymma is the specialist.” Cucumber beetles are pests of plants in the Cucurbitaceae family,which includes melons, gourds, cucumbers, squash and pumpkin.
Of key concern is “the lack of effective IPM tools for the management of cucumber beetles, especially the western striped cucumber beetle,” she said. “There is a critical need to visit this system and revisit the ecology to have a clearer understanding of the non-crop habitat uses and dispersal dynamics to improve and optimize the scouting and monitoring strategies. In addition, one way to monitor and manage insect pests is using semiochemicals such as aggregation pheromones and kairomones—for example, cucurbit blossom volatiles--which are of interest to be combined and studied their efficacy attraction.”
Preliminary data for one of her experiments indicates that the synthetic aggregation pheromone, vittatalactone, attracts the western striped cucumber beetle and the spotted cucumber beetle. “This pheromone was mimicked from airborne volatiles produced by male beetles, Acalymma vittatum, the cousin of the western striped cucumber beetle,” Bonila related. “This pheromone is a potential monitoring tool for managing these beetles and minimize the intensive applications of insecticides on the field.”
What sparked her interest in entomology? When she worked as a field research assistant for six months in 2017 with the UC Cooperative Extension in Woodland and sampled Lygus damage in sunflower fields.
“After this field assistant position, I worked as a junior specialist on an alfalfa weevil project to improve management in alfalfa,” Jasmin related. This was a research grant of the late Larry Godfrey (1956-2017), an Extension entomologist based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Godfrey, the principal investigator of the grant, worked with co-principal investigator Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Long until his death in April.
Long invited Jasmin to apply for the position. “That increased my interest in bugs,” Jasmin said. “There were so many different species and I was constantly collecting plethora of insects in each sample!”
A native of Guatemala, Jasmin moved to the United States at age 15 with her family. “Even though I wasn't born here, I still consider myself Guatemalan,” she related. “My family lives in Los Angeles and I attended Reseda High School in the San Fernando Valley.”
Jasmin, who received her bachelor's degree in earth system science at UC Merced in 2016, worked as a vegetation and ecological restoration intern with the National Park Service before enrolled in the UC Davis graduate program.
But it's the insects—particularly cucumber beetles—that fascinate her.
UC Davis biology lab manager Ivana Li, who received her bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis in 2013, is the recipient of a major UC Davis Staff Assembly award for her contributions to the campus community.
Li won the Staff Assembly's Citation for Excellence Individual Award, Service Category. She will receive a cash award of $1500 for the “efforts and positivity” she brings to the community, said spokesperson Darolyn Striley.
The Staff Assembly traditionally hosts an awards ceremony in the fall, but this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic precautions, it is likely to be postponed, Striley said.
A trio nominated Li for the honor: Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, Bohart Museum of Entomology; supervisor Pat Randolph, academic coordinator, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences; and Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Also contributing to the nomination were Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology; and forensic entomologist/faculty member Robert Kimsey, who advises the UC Davis Entomology Club. Li is a past president of the club.
The award is confidential, with names, gender and identification removed from the nomination form.
"Our nominee is exemplary as a scientist, artist and chef, going above and beyond the job description,” the nominators wrote. “As a teaching lab coordinator of the largest biology course at UC Davis, (Li) coordinates up to 1300 students and meets the unexpected challenges in ingenious, ‘can-do' and innovative ways. For example, when the lab desperately needed a large mosquito culture, (Li) contacted area vector control agencies, collected the mosquitoes, and delivered them to the lab."
“Without her tenacity in locating materials, that lab would have been a failure for that quarter,” supervisor Pat Randolph, said.
The trio wrote that Li "exemplifies the kind of leader and community organizer that UC Davis seeks to produce. As one professor (forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey) said: (Li) “is the ideal person for teaching and teaching support, intensely curious, very independent, and highly imaginative. (Li) is thus highly motivated and original in problem-solving. (Li) is the ideal collaborator, very cooperative, consistently cheerful, dependable, stable and delightful to work with.”
As a scientist and artist, Li is always willing to share her time and talents to fulfill the UC Davis mission of public service, the trio noted. For some 20 years, she has eagerly volunteered at the annual UC Picnic Day, both as an undergraduate student and as an employee. She coordinates department exhibits and displays. She also "interacts enthusiastically" with the public, even engaging in creative face-painting.
Li “organized the Invertebrate Collection and display for the UC Davis Biodiversity Museum Day, an annual science-based day formed nine years ago that draws 4000 people to our campus. This involved wrangling faculty to participate, developing a kid-friendly shell identification game to give them an idea how scientists go about identifying animals.” She “passionately draws people into science and serves as a role model with a welcoming, 'I'm-glad-to-be-here' smile and a genuine 'let's talk-science' friendly approach.”
This year Ivana Li designed the t-shirt that the volunteers wore. It featured a double-decker bus with the “passengers” as organisms showcased in the 13 museums or collection.
On the nomination form, Lynn Kimsey and Tabatha Yang noted that Li creates “amazing dioramas in the hallway of the Lab Sciences Building” and created the “incredible dioramas in the hallway of Briggs Hall.” She developed and created exhibits, t-shirts, and other informational materials for the Bohart Museum.
In addition, Li has served as an instructor at a summer bio boot camp for youngsters and agreed to be the chef for a professor's summer boot camp for graduate and undergraduate students. She also cooks for a scientific society at its annual meeting.
As a senior majoring in entomology in 2013, Li won the "UC Davis Outstanding Senior in Entomology" from the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, and the department's “Outstanding Senior Award.”
In conclusion, Li "continues to exhibit a strong sense of community and humanity,” her nominators wrote, and her “high productivity, engagement, inclusion, generosity and kind personality make for a combination that makes us all proud.”
Li grew up in Monterey Park, near east Los Angeles where she learned to love insects. Professor Sharon Lawler of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who nominated her for the outstanding senior award, related that “Ivana Li exemplifies the kind of leader, community organizer and entomology that our department seeks to produce. "She has especially excelled in her entomology courses and in leadership. Ivana Li is a true entomology and UC Davis success story.”