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Posts Tagged: Robbin Thorp

Two Who Make a Difference

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi addresses the crowd. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
They are two who make a difference.

Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology, received the 2015 Distinguished Emeritus Award and Hugh Dingle, emeritus professor of entomology, received an Edward A. Dickson Emeritus Professor Award at the chancellor's luncheon on Monday, Feb. 23 in the UC Davis Pavilion.

The two emeriti professors from the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology were among those honored at the event.  UC Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, Provost Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter, and  emcee Bill Rains, past president of the UC Davis Emeriti Association, praised them for their work.

Robbin Thorp
Thorp was singled out for the distinguished emeritus award for his outstanding scholarly work and service accomplished since his retirement in 1994. "Dr. Robbin Thorp should be the first scientist to be cloned," said emcee Rains, quoting James Cane of the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit, Utah State University, Logan 

Thorp, who joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 1964 and achieved emeritus status in 1994, is a state, national and global 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.

Since his retirement, he has compiled an exemplary record for his research, teaching, publications, presentations, and advisement services, sharing his expertise with local, statewide, national and international audiences. In his retirement, he has published 68 papers and is the first author on 15 publications. He received several prestigious awards: the 2013 outstanding team award, with several colleagues, from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, and the 2010-2011 Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship, UC Davis. Thorp is the North American regional co-chair for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bumblebee Specialist group.   He is a member of 10 professional societies, including the International Society of Hymenopterists.

A fellow of the California Academy of Sciences since 1986 and a world authority on bumble bees and other native bees, Thorp keynoted the Smithsonian Institution's public symposium on “The Plight of the Bumble Bees” in June of 2009 in Washington D.C., delivering a presentation on “Western Bumble Bees in Peril.”  He continues to monitor bumble bee populations in California and Oregon, including Franklin bumble bee (Bombus franklini), which he fears may be extinct. He has sounded the alarm on protecting bumble bees.

Close-up of plaque.
Thorp maintains his office and research headquarters in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus. Among his latest publications: he co-authored two books published in 2014:  Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California.

Thorp spends much of his time in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses collections critical to his bee identification work. He identifies species and regularly volunteers at the open houses and other event.

Thorp is an integral part of The Bee Course, an annual 10-day workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Field Station near Portal, Ariz. He has taught there since 2002 (the instructors are all volunteers), and even though he is 81 years young, he plans to continue teaching there.  (See more on the departmental web page.)

Hugh Dingle
Hugh Dingle. an international authority on animal migration, received a Dickson award to help fund his research on monarch butterflies, “Monarchs in the Pacific: Is Contemporary Evolution Occurring on Isolated Islands?” Monarch butterflies established just 200 years ago in remote Pacific islands are undergoing contemporary evolution through differences in their wing span and other changes, he believes.

Dingle, author of two editions of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move, said his previous studies reveal that migrant and resident monarchs exhibit different wing shapes. He will be working with community ecologist/associate professor Louie Yang and molecular geneticist/assistant professor Joanna Chiu of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to examine the ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in three islands where contemporary evolution might be expected. The islands are Oahu (Hawaii), Guam (Marianas) and Weno (Chuuk or Truk).

“This is the necessary first step in a long-term analysis of the evolutionary ecology and physiology of monarch butterflies on remote Pacific islands,” said Dingle, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Animal Behavior Society.

Dingle said the monarch, widely distributed “for eons” in the New World, is fairly new to the Pacific islands and to Australia. “In addition to North America, the monarch occurs as a resident throughout the Caribbean and Central and northern South America—and probably as a migrant farther south. One of the more intriguing aspects of its distribution is that beginning in the early part of the 19th century, it spread throughout the Pacific all the way to Australia, where there are now well-established."

An analysis of a monarch population in Hawaii shows that resident monarchs have shorter, broader wings than the long-distance migrants. The Hawaii butterfly wings were shorter than the eastern U.S. long-distance migrants, but “not so short-winged as the residents in the Caribbean or Costa Rica, which have been present in those locations for eons, rather than the 200 years for Hawaii.”

“If there are indeed wing shape changes associated with evolution in isolation, are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency?” Dingle wonders. “Are there other changes that may have occurred under selection and local adaptation for residency? Examples of such traits might be changes in flight muscle physiology, changes in photoperiodic diapause response, changes in the characteristics of orientation ability and its relation to antennal circadian rhythms, or changes in the reproductive capacity or tactics (re-colonization of ‘empty' habitats is no longer part of the life cycle).

Dingle published the second edition of Migration: The Biology of Life on the Move (Oxford University Press) in November 2014. It is the sequel to the widely acclaimed first edition, published in 1996. National Geographic featured Dingle in its cover story on “Great Migrations”  in November 2010.  LiveScience interviewed him for its November 2010 piece on “Why Do Animals Migrate?” (See more on the departmental web page.)

Congratulations, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robbin Thorp, and Dickson Professorship Awardee Hugh Dingle!

(Note: This blog, Bug Squad, focuses on entomology. Other recipients of the Dickson award were Daniel Anderson of the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources; Martha Macri of the Department of Linguistics; and Peter Schiffman, Department of Geology. (See web page.)

Emcee Bill Rains (left) congratulations Robbin Thorp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Emcee Bill Rains (left) congratulations Robbin Thorp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Emcee Bill Rains (left) congratulations Robbin Thorp. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

From left are Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter; emcee Bill Rains; Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor; and Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
From left are Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter; emcee Bill Rains; Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor; and Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

From left are Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph Hexter; emcee Bill Rains; Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor; and Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Hugh Dingle (standing right) and Daniel Anderson (standing left), two of the Dickson recipients, receive the applause of the crowd. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hugh Dingle (standing right) and Daniel Anderson (standing left), two of the Dickson recipients, receive the applause of the crowd. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Hugh Dingle (standing right) and Daniel Anderson (standing left), two of the Dickson recipients, receive the applause of the crowd. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 9:14 PM

Visit from Down Under


A hibernating male Valley carpenter bee (left) and a female Valley carpenter bee. They are beginning to stir, with the warmth of the sun and Robbin Thorp's hand. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was a good visit from "Down Under." 

Australian beekeeper/pollination specialist Trevor Monson, a second-generation beekeeper, and his son, Jonathan and nephew Reece spent several hours last week at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis.  They conferred with native bee pollination specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology.

 

Monson and his wife, Carolyn, and family of Victoria are bee pollination brokers and the largest in Australia--they broker 100,000 hives to growers. They own Monson's Honey and Pollination. Trevor is one of Australia's most frequently quoted bee experts. "His expertise is sought after at all levels of farming, forestry,industry, research, policy-making and government advisory bodies, such as the current Honey Bee Research Commission," according to a recent legislative report.

 

Apiarist/pollination specialist Trevor Monson is Australia's largest bee broker. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Trevor, Jonathan and Reece must have felt right at home beneath the eucalyptus trees (native to Australia) but not at home with varroa mites, which are reportedly in every hive in the United States but haven't reached Australia yet.  Among beekeepers worldwide, the blood-sucking varroa mite is considered Public Enemy No. 1.

Thorp showed them a male and female Valley carpenter bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) and their nest, a chunk of sawed-off apple tree felled in Davis and transported to the Laidlaw facility.  The blond, green-eyed male and the solid black female drew their attention.

The trio also toured the nearby Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They admired the ceramic mosaic sculpture of a six-foot-long worker bee that anchors the garden. The sculpture, "Miss Bee Haven," is the work of self-described "rock artist" Donna Billick of Davis, co-founder and co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program.

During their weeklong stay in California, they met with a number of beekeepers and representatives of the bee and almond industries.

Apiarist/pollination specialist Trevor Monson (left) talks bees with pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Apiarist/pollination specialist Trevor Monson (left) talks bees with pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Apiarist/pollination specialist Trevor Monson (left) talks bees with pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Trevor Monson (second from left) and nephew Reece and son Jonathan chat with native pollination specialist Robbin Thorp (far right), distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. They are looking at a Valley carpenter bee nest. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Trevor Monson (second from left) and nephew Reece and son Jonathan chat with native pollination specialist Robbin Thorp (far right), distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. They are looking at a Valley carpenter bee nest. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Trevor Monson (second from left) and nephew Reece and son Jonathan chat with native pollination specialist Robbin Thorp (far right), distinguished emeritus professor of entomology. They are looking at a Valley carpenter bee nest. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Australian trio and two UC Davis scientists are in front of
The Australian trio and two UC Davis scientists are in front of "Miss Bee Haven," the ceramic mosaic sculpture in the UC Davis honey bee garden. From left are Trevor's nephew, Reece; UC Davis native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; Trevor Monson and his son, Jonathan, and in back, pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

The Australian trio and two UC Davis scientists are in front of "Miss Bee Haven," the ceramic mosaic sculpture in the UC Davis honey bee garden. From left are Trevor's nephew, Reece; UC Davis native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; Trevor Monson and his son, Jonathan, and in back, pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, February 6, 2015 at 6:12 PM

Waiting for the Bees

Where, oh where, is that first bumble bee of the year?

It's about this time of the year when the queen black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, and the queen yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, emerge. 

One of our area readers asked if there's a chart or calendar indicating what time of year the various native bees emerge. One of the best sources is native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis. (By the way, he's giving a public presentation on native bees at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24 at Solano County's Rush Ranch Nature Center, Suisun City. All interested persons are invited; there's no admission.)

"Each species of bee has its own particular season," Thorp says. "Some start in late winter to early spring, others start late spring, early summer.   Some don't fly until fall.  Some bees, especially our social bees (honey bees, bumble bees and some sweat bees) fly most of the flowering year (January-February into October-November)."

"It's probably best to frame the bee calendar in context of the bloom of various plants," Thorp points out. "Manzanita is one of the first flowering shrubs and when they come in to bloom that is the time to look for queens of our two early bumble bee species, Bombus melanopygus and B. vosnesenskii.  Some of our large digger bees like Habropoda and some Anthophora come on during that bloom.  In the vernal pools, early flowering starts in late February and some of our solitary ground nesting mining bees, Andrena start about then.   When the red bud comes into bloom about mid-March the Blue Orchard Bee (BOB), some other species of bumble bees, and some sweat bees come out.  Leafcutting bees (Megachile) and some long-horned digger bees (Melissodes and Svastra) start their activity about mid-May. "

A great book to learn about native bees and the flowers they visit is the newly published California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). It's co-authored by Gordon Frankie, Robbin Thorp, Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter, all with UC Berkeley connections.

For example, if you look up manzanita (genus Arctostaphylos and family Ericaceae), in California Bees and Blooms, you'll see that there are more than 90 species and subspecies in California, and you'll learn which bees visit them. The authors provide a description of the plant, its origin and natural habitat, its range and use in urban California, its flowering season (late winter to early spring), the resources it provides for bees (pollen and nectar), bee ecology and behavior, and gardening tips.

The book is a treasure.

As are the bees! 

A queen black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, foraging on pansies on Jan. 22, 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A queen black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, foraging on pansies on Jan. 22, 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A queen black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, foraging on pansies on Jan. 22, 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, on rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, on rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, on rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 9:19 PM

Congratulations, Robbin Thorp!

This Western bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis, has declined throughout central California. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
You may have heard that native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, will give a presentation on native bees at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 24 at Solano County's Rush Ranch Nature Center, Suisun City. 

You may also have heard that during the  two-hour program (free and open to the public), Thorp will share his extensive knowledge of bees and discuss their role as pollinators.

What you may not have heard is that Robbin Thorp is the newly selected recipient of the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award, a high honor, indeed.  And richly deserved.

Robbin Thorp, known as a tireless advocate of native bees, especially bumble bees, will be presented the award at a luncheon hosted next month by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi.

“Professor Thorp has had an outstanding professional career in the area of pollination ecology and systematics of honey and bumble bees,” said Lyn Lofland, president of the Executive Committee of the UC Davis Emeriti Association. “He has continued his professional contributions since he retired publishing both scientific papers and books. He has continued to teach and guide graduate students providing them with the benefit of his vast experience and knowledge. He also provides expert taxonomic services, identifying thousands of native bee specimens. He has coupled this effort with training numerous field assistants. Professor Thorp matched perfectly with the criteria established for the Distinguished Emeriti Award."

Thorp said it's a great honor to be named a distinguished emeritus.  "It is an extra pleasure to be recognized for doing what I love and enjoy."

Thorp, who joined the UC Davis entomology faculty in 1964 and achieved emeritus status in 1994, is a state, national and global 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.

Since his retirement, he has compiled an exemplary record for his research, teaching, publications, presentations, and advisement services, sharing his expertise with local, statewide, national and international audiences. In his retirement, he has published 68 papers and is the first author on 15 publications. He received several prestigious awards: the 2013 outstanding team award, with several colleagues, from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, and the 2010-2011 Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship, UC Davis. Thorp is the North American regional co-chair for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bumblebee Specialist group.   He is a member of 10 professional societies, including the International Society of Hymenopterists.

The male Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta. Robbin Thorp fondly calls this one "the teddy bear bee." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Thorp maintains his office and research headquarters in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on the UC Davis campus. Among his latest publications: he co-authored two books published in 2014, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). Of the 20,000 bee species identified worldwide, some 4000 are found in the United States, and 1600 in California. 

Thorp chaired the Jepson Prairie Advisory Committee at UC Davis from 1992-2011 (which includes seven years after his retirement).  He is still active as a docent leading tours during the tour season.  He is also involved in training new docents by providing information on the native bees that pollinate vernal pool flowers.

Thorp spends much of his time in the Bohart Museum of Entomology, which houses collections critical to his bee identification work. He identifies species and regularly volunteers at the open houses and other event.

Thorp is an integral part of The Bee Course, an annual 10-day workshop sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History and held at the Southwestern Field Station near Portal, Ariz. He has taught there since 2002 (the instructors are all volunteers), and even though he is 81 years young, he plans to continue teaching there.  

In an email conversation, colleague James Cane of the USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit, Utah State University, Logan, said it well:  “Dr. Robbin Thorp should be the first scientist to be cloned, so valuable and broadly integrated are his knowledge about bees and pollination.  No one else I know has his combination of skills; normally several people would be needed.  Thus, he is a taxonomist of several genera of bees, a competent pollination biologist studying both native bees and honey bees in both natural and agricultural realms (with research experience in several crops), and a conservation advocate for bees.  Moreover, I have watched his considerable teaching skills while helping in The Bee Course over the years.  There I also get to see what a model human being Robbin is: thoughtful, considerate, a great listener, playful, polite unpretentious, all traits that the students gravitate toward.  I have looked to Robbin as a role model for over 30 years, listen carefully to what he has to say, and always look forward to being in his presence.  UC Davis is very lucky indeed to have attracted and retained such a fabulous faculty member.”

Colleague Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley credits Thorp with not only identifying more than 100,000 bees for her research since his retirement in 1994, but helping her with research protocol and helping her graduate students identify bees. “Dr. Thorp has contributed in three main ways. First, he has provided expert input into the design of protocols for the research, including assays for pollinator effectiveness, developing citizen science methods, rearing experimental bumble bee colonies, monitoring bumble bee colony properties in the field, and developing pollinator survey methods. Second, he has provided expert taxonomic services, including personally identifying over 100,000 native bee specimens that we have collected during this work, and working with us to develop a bee traits database. Third, he has trained numerous field assistants and graduate students from my lab in different aspects of bee biology. He's spent long hours with many of my graduate students helping them learn to identify bees. He also helped us develop methods and information sheets for teaching field and lab teams to recognize key generic and family characters for identifying bees in the field and sorting them in the lab. He's advised many of my graduate students on different aspects of their work.” 

Said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis: “I have to say that Robbin has been phenomenal. He is more active in research and outreach every year. Regardless of what task is presented to him he is engaged and brings all his experience and knowledge to bear. I don't know many line faculty who are as active in their fields as Robbin is as a retiree. He is always available for museum events and loves to work with the public, particularly kids. I don't know of many pollination ecologists or bee systematists with his level of knowledge.” 

Entomologist Katharina Ullmann, who received her doctorate in 2014 from UC Davis, says that Robbin Thorp is “one of the few people in North America who can identify bees down to the species level. As a result he's in high demand and has identified thousands of specimens for numerous lab groups since his retirement. However, he doesn't just identify the specimens. Instead, he's willing to patiently work through dichotomous keys with you so that you can learn those skills. His ongoing monitoring projects, work as an IUCN specialist, and recent books on bumble bee identification and guide to the bees of California show his commitment to the broader impacts of his research.” 

Around the UC Davis campus, Thorp is known as a tireless advocate for pollinator education and outreach. He is often called upon by the Bohart Museum of Entomology and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden (both part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology), the UC Davis Arboretum and the California Center for Urban Horticulture to participate in their public outreach forums and events. 

He spends countless hours connecting people of all ages to the world of insects, especially the pollinators like bumble bees. One of his research projects is monitoring the native bee activity in our department's bee garden, Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden, work that he has done since 2008. In addition, he frequently presents talks at UC Davis and afield, to diverse audiences including UC Master Gardeners, beekeeper groups, and schoolchildren. 

Thorp, who calls Michigan his home state, received both his bachelor's degree and master's degree in zoology from the University of Michigan. He received his doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1964.

Previous recipients of the distinguished award:

2014: Tom Cahill, professor emeritus, physics
2013: Eldredge Moores, professor emeritus, geology
2012: Alex McCall, professor emeritus and former dean, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
2011: Charles Hess, professor emeritus and dean emeritus, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
2008: M. Wayne Thiebaud, emeritus professor, art

Congratulations, Robbin Thorp! Scientist, researcher, author, professor, teacher, and a longtime public advocate for the bees! 

P. S. Can we clone him now, as Jim Cane suggested?

 

Robbin Thorp with two books he co-authored in 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Robbin Thorp with two books he co-authored in 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Robbin Thorp with two books he co-authored in 2014. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Professor Robbin Thorp with students from The Bee Course. He is in the third row (far right, standing).
Professor Robbin Thorp with students from The Bee Course. He is in the third row (far right, standing).

Professor Robbin Thorp with students from The Bee Course. He is in the third row (far right, standing).

Bee Course instructors from  2013 are (from left) Laurence Packer, York University, Toronto; Terry Griswold, USDA Bee Lab, Logan UT;  Steve Buchmann, Tucson, AZ; Robbin Thorp; John Ascher, University of Singapore; Jim Cane, USDA Bee Lab, Logan, UT; Eli Wyman, American Museum of Natural History, NY.  Not pictured: Jerome G. Rozen, Jr., AMNH, Course Leader who was unable to participate that year.
Bee Course instructors from 2013 are (from left) Laurence Packer, York University, Toronto; Terry Griswold, USDA Bee Lab, Logan UT; Steve Buchmann, Tucson, AZ; Robbin Thorp; John Ascher, University of Singapore; Jim Cane, USDA Bee Lab, Logan, UT; Eli Wyman, American Museum of Natural History, NY. Not pictured: Jerome G. Rozen, Jr., AMNH, Course Leader who was unable to participate that year.

Bee Course instructors from 2013 are (from left) Laurence Packer, York University, Toronto; Terry Griswold, USDA Bee Lab, Logan UT; Steve Buchmann, Tucson, AZ; Robbin Thorp; John Ascher, University of Singapore; Jim Cane, USDA Bee Lab, Logan, UT; Eli Wyman, American Museum of Natural History, NY. Not pictured: Jerome G. Rozen, Jr., AMNH, Course Leader who was unable to participate that year.

Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 5:43 PM

What's It Like to Be Parasitized?

Senior museum scientist Steve Heydon is a world authority on Pteromalids, or jewel wasps, a tiny group of parasitoids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's it like to be parasitized?

Say you're a caterpillar or an aphid and a wasp comes along and lays her eggs inside you. Her eggs will hatch and then her offspring will eat their way out. You, the host,  are no more. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

If you visit the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house on Sunday, Jan. 11 on the University of California, Davis, campus, you'll learn all about parasitoids.

The fun, educational and family-friendly event is themed, "Parasitoid Palooza!" Free and open to the public, it takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane,

"Most everyone knows that mantids eat other insects or that ladybird beetles (lady bugs) consume lots of aphids, but there is another way insects eat other insects," commented Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.

"An insect parasitoid is a species whose immatures live off of one insect host, usually eating it from the inside out," she said. "It is part of their life cycle and the host dies. This sounds like a weird way to make a living, but there are more species of parasitoids than there are insects with any other single kind of life history. The movie Alien with Sigourney Weaver co-opts this phenomenon, but in reality there are no parasitoids on humans or other vertebrates."

The Bohart open house will spotlight this unusual life cycle.  Wasps, flies and beetles are parasitoids to many different insect groups.

Senior museum scientist and collections manager Steve Heydon, is a world authority on Pteromalids, or jewel wasps, a group of tiny parasitoids, and will be on hand to talk about them.

This tachinid fly is both a parasitoid and a pollinator. This is a female of the Peleteria species. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Another group of parasitoids highlighted will be the Strepsiptera, or Twisted-Wing Parasites, an order of insects that the late UC Davis entomologist Richard M. Bohart (1913-2007) researched for his doctorate, which he obtained in 1938.  The museum not only carries his name, but there's an entire family of Strepsiptera, the Bohartillidae, named in honor of him.

Live parasitoids from the lab of Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomolology and Nematology will be showcased. They include Encarsa, Eretmocerus, Diglyphus and Aphidius.

"Parasitoid Palooza" promises to be a fun and wacky celebration of the diversity of life, Yang said. A family-friendly craft activity with balloons inside of balloons (representing parasitoids) is planned.

Before you go, be sure to check out Wired.Com's piece on a wasp from the genus Glyptapantele laying eggs in a caterpillar. Tachinid flies also provide biological control services, laying their eggs in a number of insects, including  beetles, moths, sawflies, earwigs and grasshoppers.

Along with parasitoids, visitors will see some  "teddy bear" bees or male Valley carpenter bees, to be shown by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis.   Allan Jones of Davis, a noted insect photographer, delivered some to Thorp's office in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility last week. Their origin? A friend's felled apple tree in Davis. The tree had rotted and male and female Valley carpenter bees were wintering inside.

The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology at UC Davis, houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It is also the home of the seventh largest insect collection in North America, and the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity.

Special attractions include a “live” petting zoo, featuring Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. Visitors are invited to hold the insects and photograph them. The museum's gift shop, open year around, includes T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.

The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays and on major holidays. Admission is free. Open houses, focusing on specific themes, are held on weekends throughout the academic year. 

The remaining schedule of open houses:

  • Sunday, Feb. 8: “Biodiversity Museum Day,” noon to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 14: “Pollination Nation,” 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 18: UC Davis Picnic Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 17: “Name That Bug! How About Bob?” 1 to 4 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 18: “Moth Night,” 8 to 11 p.m.

More information is available by contacting Tabatha Yang, education and public outreach coordinator at tabyang@ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-0493.

A wasp (family Aphidiinae) parasitizing an aphid. (Photo by Fran Keller, who received her doctorate in entomology this year from UC Davis.)
A wasp (family Aphidiinae) parasitizing an aphid. (Photo by Fran Keller, who received her doctorate in entomology this year from UC Davis.)

A wasp (family Aphidiinae) parasitizing an aphid. (Photo by Fran Keller, who received her doctorate in entomology this year from UC Davis.)

Posted on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 at 5:10 PM

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