- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Charlie Casey Nicholson 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.
He 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).
The contest seeks a photograph--not a specimen--of the year's first bumble bee within the two-county area of Yolo and Solano, said coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology.
As the winner, Nicholson will receive a special Bohart bumble bee coffee cup and a face mask, said Kimsey.
Nicholson, 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, is a 2015 alumnus of The Bee Course, where Robbin Thorp, a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, taught from 2002 through 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.
"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."
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 campuswide Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. Other honors included: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the 2013 Team Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. In addition, he served as a past president (2010-2011) of the Davis Botanical Society, and chair (1992-2011) of the Advisory Committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
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.”