According to a Xerces Society press release, bumble bees are declining throughout the world.

Researchers in Britain and the Netherlands have "noticed a decline in the abundance of certain plants where multiple bee species have also declined. For many crops, such as greenhouse tomatoes, blueberries and cranberries, bumble bees are better pollinators than honey bees, and some species are produced commercially for their use in pollination. "

Last October Thorp received a 2010-11 Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship Award, from UC Davis to support his research on the critically imperiled bumble bee. The objectives of Thorp's research funded by the Dickson grant are to:

  • Collect bumble bees for disease studies at the University of Illinois with emphasis on B. franklini (where and when appropriate so as not to hinder population recovery) and B. occidentalis and potential reservoir species known to co-occur with them, all within the historic range of B. franklini.
  • Survey for B. franklini and B. occidentalis with emphasis on B. franklini historical sites.
  • Include observations on population abundance of other species of bumble bees at monitoring sites for comparison with the two target species.
  • Monitor floral visitation and track any individuals of B. franklini and/or B. occidentalis to determine their foraging behavior, subset of overall habitat used, nest site locations and acceptance of trap-nest boxes.

Thorp, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, teaches "The Bee Course" every summer for the American Museum of Natural History of New York at its field station in Arizona.

The Xerces Society contributed to this news release. See UC Davis Department of Entomology website for close-up of Franklin's bumble bee.