Robbin Thorp: 1933-2019

Dr. Robbin Thorp was a passionate advocate for bees, and a beloved fixture at Jepson Prairie Preserve for decades. An emeritus professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, Robbin died at age 85 at his home in Davis on June 7, 2019.

The community will reap the rewards of Robbin Thorp’s passions for a long time.

You probably know that Jepson Prairie Preserve, protected with your support, has exquisite wildflower displays and tiny endangered critters that live their short lives here. Jepson Prairie also has an amazing and talented group of people who study this rare land and share their generous knowledge, time, and passion—people like Robbin Thorp.

Robbin was a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994. His knowledge of the native flowers at Jepson Prairie and the bees that pollinate them was singular, as he was one of the first scientists to study vernal pool flowers and their pollinators.

“Robbin was a mainstay of the docent program at Jepson Prairie,” says Kate Mawdsley, Jepson Prairie’s docent volunteer coordinator. “He unfailingly provided a great talk on the role of solitary bees in pollinating vernal pool plants. Moreover, he came to almost every training session. He was so kind and unassuming that new docents were completely unaware that they were talking to a world expert.”

In Robbin’s retirement, he continued his research, worked full-time at the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on the UC Davis campus, and advocated for pollinator species protection. He was a fellow at the California Academy of Sciences, and chair (1992-2011) of the advisory committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.

His bee advocacy work with Solano Land Trust didn’t stop there. Since 1993, Robbin gave a workshop about native bees at Rush Ranch. The event was always standing room only, and everyone who attended left with an understanding of the importance of California’s native bees.

“He will be missed by our native bees and all of us,” says Rush Ranch Educational Council’s Mary Takeuchi. “I feel like I’ve lost a friend.”

Solano Land Trust honors the work and legacy of Dr. Robbin Thorp. “We are proud to protect land, and proud that open space advocates — be they amateur enthusiasts or specialists like Robbin — can participate in protecting the health and well-being of our local plants and animals,” says executive director Nicole Braddock.

A celebration of life date will be announced soon. Further information will be posted on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology website.

Photos courtesy of Kathy Keatley Garvey and Scott Braley.