Bee Citizen Science Projects

So far, I've participated in two different bee citizen science projects: The Great Sunflower Project, and Bumble Bee Watch.

The Great Sunflower Project

Lemon Queen sunflower©Janet Allen
This is the recommended sunflower cultivar and it's organic so it infused with systemic pesticides

We've participated in The Great Sunflower Project since it first started. It addresses a very important question: What is the size of the wild bee population (as opposed to managed honey bees). How would we know if someone didn't count them? That's a perfect job for citizen scientists!

Initially, a cultivar of the native annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus 'Lemon Queen') was specified. Although the project provides sources for seeds, the first years I found it easier to purchase the required cultivar locally, and then later, when I needed organic, I just bought the seeds on Amazon.

I've found that my plants haven't bloomed very early in the season, so my counts have been delayed somewhat. Maybe I need to start them earlier inside.

Lemon Queen with three bees©Janet Allen
Lemon Queen with three bees

After the first few years, the protocol was changed so that we could observe plants other than just the sunflowers (although we're continuing to plant the sunflowers, too).

Bumble Bee Watch

Bumble bee on indigo©Janet Allen
A bumble bee on indigo

Bumble Bee Watch is an effort to track and conserve North America's bumble bees. In this project, I submit photos of bumble bees and make some preliminary decision about what particular species it is by going through a decision tree (provided on the website). Although this initial ID is challenging, my guess vetted by experts, and so I've started to learn how to identify bumble bees - a real plus for me! (Especially since just a few years ago I found it difficult to even distinguish between a bumble bee and a honey bee.)

As with most citizen science projects, it has made me much more observant and therefore more enjoyable when I see bumble bees in my yard! And I'm glad I can contribute to determining the distribution of the bumble bee population.