Uncovering the secret lives of bees…

Though it is not something that we think about every day, pollination is an important part of our ecosystem.  Everything from the prescription drugs we take to the food we eat for lunch comes from natural plant products that are pollinated in the wild.  Economists and ecologists working together to assess the financial value of natural ecosystems estimate that pollination of plants in the wild by bees in the United States is worth four to six billion dollars per year!  BILLIONS…and we get it all for free…

…for now, anyway.  Scientists are already aware that populations of bees are dwindling in wild and agricultural landscapes.  Even worse, because natural habitats are uncommon in city dwellings, they may not provide enough resources to support viable communities of pollinators.  Tracking where pollinators thrive can help scientists determine how habitats can be changed to promote bee colonization.

Launched in 2008 by Dr. Gretchen LeBuhn at San Francisco State University, The Great Sunflower Project aims to do just that.  Participants can sign up online to receive Lemon Queen sunflower seeds through the mail, and plant them in their own garden.  Two weekends a month, participants would be required to sit outside in the sunshine and record the number of bees visiting their flowers during 30 minutes.  (Not a bad gig, and a great excuse to enjoy the spring weather.)

Start your garden today!  Seeds (along with a handy welcome kit) will be sent out during the month of March and through the beginning of April.

(Photo, “Carpenter Bee on Sunflower,” was used here with permission by Ginny Stibolt.)

Statistics from 2008: 40,000 sunflowers planted and observed across the United States

PROJECT SNAPSHOT:

> Topics Sunflowers, bees, spring, pollination

> Location Close to home

> Duration 30 minutes, two weekends a month

> Cost Free

> Gear No special equipment required – they will mail you seeds!

> Level of Difficulty Easy