The third annual Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble Bee-of-the-Year Contest will begin at 12:01, Jan. 1. The first person to photograph a bumble bee in the two-county area and email it to the sponsor, the Bohart Museum of Entomology, will receive a coffee cup designed with the endangered Franklin's bumble bee, the bee that Thorp monitored on the California-Oregon border for decades.
Contest coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, said the image must be taken in the wild and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the time, date and place.
The contest memorializes Professor Thorp (1933-2019), a global authority on bees and a UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, who died June 7, 2019 at age 85. A 30-year member of the UC Davis faculty, he retired in 1994 but continued working until several weeks before his death. Every year he looked forward to seeing the first bumble bee in the area.
Page photographed a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, while Zagory captured an image of the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii.
Fittingly, they both knew and worked with Thorp, a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation and the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
This marked the second consecutive win for a member of the Williams lab. Postdoctoral researcher Charlie Casey Nicholson of the Williams lab and the Elina Lastro Niño lab, won the 2021 contest by photographing a Bombus melanopygus at 3:10 p.m., Jan. 14 in a manzanita patch in the Arboretum.
Both Page and Nicholson are alumni of The Bee Course, which Thorp co-taught from 2002-2018. Page completed the course in 2018, and Nicholson in 2015. 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.
Page participated in a "Bumble Bee Blitz" organized by Thorp and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in July 2016 on Mt. Ashland, where, she said, "we searched for Bombus franklini and Bombus occidentalis-- two very rare west coast bee species. We unfortunately did not find B. franklini, which is now recognized as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.”
The prized coffee cup features an image of the bee specimen, photographed by Bohart scientist Brennen Dyer, now collections manager, and designed by UC Davis doctoral alumnus Fran Keller, a professor at Folsom Lake College.
Previous winners are ineligible to win the prize.
Page will present her dissertation research that investigates the impacts of increasing honey bee abundance on plant-pollinator interactions and plant pollination. Her work suggests that honey bees reduce pollen and nectar availability in flowers, leading to competitive displacement of native bees.
"Competitive displacement of native bees may in turn decrease plant pollination because native bees are often more effective than native bees as pollinators," Page says. "My research suggests that such changes are already occurring for Camassia quamash (small camas) following honey bee introductions in the Sierra Nevada."
Page is scheduled to receive her doctorate in entomology in June 2022 and then begin a postdoctoral fellowship with assistant professor Scott McArt at Cornell University, where she will investigate patterns of interspecific pathogen transmission and how more sustainable beekeeping practices might mitigate the negative effects of competition. McArt recently delivered a seminar hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology on "Pesticide Risk to Pollinators: What We Know and What We Need to Know Better."
Page holds a master's degree in entomology (2019) from UC Davis and a bachelor's degree in biology (2016), cum laude, from Scripps College, Claremont, Calif.
Highly recognized for her work, Page received a three-year $115,000 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, funded by the Department of Defense. She was one of 69 recipients out of more than 3600 applicants. She earlier won a campuswide 2016-17 Graduate Scholars Fellowship of $25,200; a Vansell Scholarship in both 2018 and 2019; and Davis Society Botanical grants in 2017, 2018 and 2019. A 2018 Duffey-Dingle Research Fellowship also helped fund her research (optimizing pollinator plant mixes to simultaneously support wild and managed bees).
Active in the Entomological Society of America and the Ecological Society of America, Page scored a second-place award for her project, "Optimizing Wildflower Plant Mixes to Support Wild and Managed Bees" in a 2021 student competition hosted by the Entomological Society of America. She also presented “Impacts of Honey Bee Introductions on the Pollination of a Sierra Wildflower" at the August 2020 meeting of the Ecological Society of America, and "Can Visitation and Pollen Transport Patterns Predict Plant Pollination?" at the April 2019 meeting of the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America.
A strong supporter of community outreach and STEM, Page has been active in the summer program, Girls Outdoor Adventure and Leadership (GOALS) since August 2017. The free program is targeted for teens underrepresented in STEM. Page has served as a program co-organizer, mentor and lecturer. Part of her work included helping organize the 2021 summer program, leading a lecture on introductory data analysis, and helping students with their community science project (identifying pollinators in urban gardens).
Page was also active in Center for Land-Based Learning, serving as a mentor in the Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship. She mentored high school students, engaging them in hands-on conservation science at Say Hay Farm in Yolo County, and teaching them about how wildflower plantings benefit bees.
In July 2019, Page collaborated with colleagues at Cornell and the University of Minnesota to present a workshop on the intersections of science and social justice, aiming to make science more open and accessible.
Page and postdoctoral researcher Charlie Casey Nicholson of Williams lab recently co-authored the cover story, A Meta-Analysis of Single Visit Pollination Effectiveness Comparing Honeybees and other Floral Visitors, in the American Journal of Botany
The second annual Robbin Thorp Memorial First-Bumble Bee-of-the-Year Contest is over.
On two separate expeditions, but at exactly 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 1, UC Davis doctoral candidate Maureen Page of the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and horticulturist Ellen Zagory, retired director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, co-won the contest by each photographing a bumble bee foraging on manzanita (Arctostaphylos) in the 100-acre Arboretum.
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 scored a win. 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.
Contest coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, sought the first bumble bee of the year in the two-county area of Yolo and Solano in memory of Thorp, a 30-year member of the UC Davis faculty. Thorp retired in 1994 but continued his work until several weeks before his death at age 85 at his home in Davis. Every year he looked forward to seeing the first bumble bee.
Page began looking for the bumble bee in the Arboretum on Dec. 31. “I went on a walk through the UC Davis Arboretum at 3 p.m. on New Year's Eve and stopped by a manzanita tree hoping to see a bumble bee,” recounted Page. “After less than a few minutes, I spotted a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus! However, it was not yet 2022 so I planned to return the following day at 2 p.m. and was similarly lucky--I spotted a bee within minutes of arriving. It was sunny and about 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside when I observed the bumble bee." Bombus melanopygus is the earliest bumble bee species to emerge in this area.
"Although I saw the bee within a few minutes of arriving, I spent an hour trying to get a good photograph," Page said. "In the process of trying to photograph the bee, I saw at least one other Bombus melanopygus visiting manzanita flowers!" She captured the image with her cell phone.
Professor and pollinator ecologist Neal Williams identified the bee image that Zagory took as a yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, but indicated it is way early for this bumble bee to emerge in this area.
Both Zagory and Page and worked with Robbin Thorp, a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation and the co-author of Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
“I indeed knew Robbin Thorp, one of the most generous and kind people I have ever met,” Zagory said. “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 web site at https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/pollinator-gardening.
Both Page and Nicholson are alumni of The Bee Course, which Thorp co-taught from 2002-2018. Page took the course in 2018, and Nicholson in 2015. 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.
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.”
“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."
She and Nicholson are the co-leading authors of "A Meta-Analysis of Single Visit Pollination Effectiveness Comparing Honeybees and Other Floral Visitors," the Nov. 30th cover story in the American Journal of Botany. Citing the importance of native bees, Page said: "Native bees provide irreplaceable pollination services. I'm glad to see that flower plantings, like those found in the UC Davis Arboretum, provide food for diverse native bee communities as early as Jan. 1.”
Newly published UC Davis research in the American Journal of Botany yields some surprising results.
Honeybees are effective pollinators, but when compared to other pollinators, including wild bees, they are rarely the most effective plant pollinators, according to a meta-analysis project led by doctoral candidate Maureen Page and postdoctoral researcher Charlie Casey Nicholson of the Neal Williams laboratory, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Page and Nicholson are the co-leading authors of "A Meta-Analysis of Single Visit Pollination Effectiveness Comparing Honeybees and other Floral Visitors," the cover story of the current edition of the journal, published Nov. 30.
“Although high visitation frequencies make honeybees important pollinators, they were rarely the most effective pollinators of plants and were less effective than the average bee,” said Page. “This suggests that honeybees may be imperfect substitutes for the loss of wild pollinators and ensuring pollination will benefit from conservation of non-honeybee taxa. In the future, we hope other researchers will use the data we have collected to further investigate the factors that influence pollination effectiveness.”
Page and Nicholson began with the premise: “Many animals provide ecosystem services in the form of pollination including honeybees, which have become globally dominant floral visitors. A rich literature documents considerable variation in single visit pollination effectiveness, but this literature has yet to be extensively synthesized to address whether honeybees are effective pollinators,”
The researchers conducted a hierarchical meta-analysis of 168 studies and extracted 1564 single visit effectiveness (SVE) measures for 240 plant species. “We paired SVE data with visitation frequency data for 69 of these studies,” they wrote. “We used these data to ask three questions: (1) Do honeybees (Apis mellifera) and other floral visitors differ in their SVE? (2) To what extent do plant and pollinator attributes predict differences in SVE between honeybees and other visitors? (3) Is there a correlation between visitation frequency and SVE?”
"Surprisingly, honeybees were less effective than other bees as pollinators of crop plants, suggesting that the importance of honeybees as crop pollinators derives largely from their numerical abundance rather than the quality of their floral visits," Page said.
Results. “Honeybees were significantly less effective than the most effective non-honeybee pollinators but were as effective as the average pollinator," they wrote in their results section of the paper. "The type of pollinator moderated these effects. Honeybees were less effective compared to the most effective and average bird and bee pollinators but were as effective as other taxa. Visitation frequency and SVE were positively correlated, but this trend was largely driven by data from communities where honeybees were absent.”
The researchers concluded that “Although high visitation frequencies make honeybees important pollinators, they were less effective than the average bee and rarely the most effective pollinator of the plants they visit. As such, honeybees may be imperfect substitutes for the loss of wild pollinators, and safeguarding pollination will benefit from conservation of non-honeybee taxa.”
Also contributing to the project were Ross Brennan, Anna Britzman, Jessica Greer, Jeremy Hemberger, Hanna Kahl, Uta Müller, Youhong Peng, Nick Rosenberger, Clara Stuligross, Li Wang, and Professors Louie Yang and Neal Williams.
Cover Photo. The cover photo, by Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, shows several species of bees on a sunflower, Helianthus sp. They include a honeybee (Apis mellifera), sunflower bee (Svastra obliqua), and two sweat bees (Halictus tripartitus and Halictus ligatus), as identified by Professor Williams, a pollinator ecologist.
"Honeybees are as effective as the average pollinator, but rarely the most effective pollinators of plants," according to the caption. "Surprisingly, honeybees are less effective than other bees as pollinators of cultivated plants, suggesting the importance of honeybees as agricultural pollinators derives largely from their numerical abundance. Their study confirms a widely held belief that honeybees are not the best pollinators of plants globally and substantiates the growing concern that honeybees may be imperfect substitutes for the loss of wild pollinators."
Charlie Nicholson. Nicholson, a researcher in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology labs of both Professor Neal Williams, and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, 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.
Maureen Page. Page received her bachelor's degree in biology, cum laude, from Scripps College, Claremont, Calif., in 2016, and then enrolled in the UC Davis entomology graduate program, with a career goal of becoming a professor and principal investigator. In 2018, she received prestigious three-year fellowship, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, for her research proposal, “Promoting Food Security by Optimizing Wildflower Plantings to Support Wild and Managed Bees." Long interested in bee research, Page received a 2013 Scripps Environmental Research Grant to establish a solitary bee monitoring program at the Bernard Field Station in Claremont. She created a reference collection and species list of bee diversity at the field station, gaining experience collecting, pinning and identifying bee specimens. She presented her findings at the Scripps Undergraduate Research Symposium. Page later worked on a project categorizing pollen deposition by the yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenkii to California figwort, Scrophularia california.
The hybrid meeting (both in-person and virtual) took place Oct. 31-Nov. 3 in Denver.
Several of the UC Davis highlights, as previously featured on the Department of Entomology and Nematology website:
- UC Davis distinguished professor Frank Zalom, integrated pest management (IPM) specialist and a past president of ESA, was celebrated as an Honorary Member of the ESA, an honor bestowed for his “long-term dedication and extraordinary contributions." (See more here.)
- UC Davis doctoral alumnus Kelli Hoover, a Pennsylvania State University professor internationally known for her research on invasive species, including the Asian longhorned beetle, gypsy moth and spotted lanternfly, was honored as a newly elected Fellow of ESA for her excellence in research. (See more here.)
- Danielle Rutkowski, doctoral candidate in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won a President's Prize in a graduate student competition for her presentation on "Fungicide Impacts on Bumble Bees are Mediated via Effects on Bee-Associated Fungi" in the category, Plant-Insect Ecosystems: Ecology 3." She studies with community ecologist Rachel Vannette, associate professor, and is also advised by community ecologist and professor Rick Karban. (See more here.)
- Maureen Page, with the lab of pollinator ecologist Neal Williams, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won the second-place award in a graduate student competition for her presentation on "Optimizing Pollinator-Friendly Plant Mixes to Simultaneously Support Wild and Managed Bees." She competed in the category, Plant-Insect Ecosystems: Pollinators. (See more here.)
- Kyle Lewald, with the College of Biological Sciences and the Integrated Genomics and Genetics Graduate Group, but a member of the lab of molecular geneticist and physiologist Joanna Chiu, professor and vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won second-place in a graduate student competition for his presentation on "Assembly of Highly Continguous Diploid Genome for the Agricultural Pest, Tuta absoluta." (See more here.)
At the ESA's annual meetings, students are offered the opportunity to present their research and win prizes. There are several components to the competition: 10-minute papers (oral), posters, and infographics. First-place winners receive a one-year free membership in ESA, a $75 cash prize, and a certificate. Second-winners score a one-year free membership in ESA and a certificate.
"Each year approximately 3,500 entomologists and other scientists gather to exchange scientific information," ESA says on hits website. "A program of symposia, conferences, submitted papers, and continuing education seminars provides attendees the opportunity to hear and present research results. The meeting also provides a chance to interact informally with peers and prospective employers."
ESA, founded in 1889 and headquartered in Annapolis, Md.,, is the world's largest organization serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and others in related disciplines. Its 7000 members are in educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Michelle Smith of Corteva Agriscience served as the 2021 president. The newly elected president is Jessica Ware, assistant curator of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History.