A new movement in the fight to protect our fuzzy and adorable bee friends is taking place in the United States. A “citizen science” project is abuzz with volunteers enlisting to collect data about our industrious pollinators. However, the recruited volunteers are not specialists but people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including, bankers, teachers, students and retirees. These volunteers cooperate with bee specialists by recording observational data about the pollinators and their habitats while specialists identify the collected specimens.
The troop of bee-crusaders originates from the Great Sunflower Project started in 2008 by queen bee, Gretchen LeBuhn, a conservation biologist at San Francisco University. The project started the battle against Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which occurs when a bunch of worker bees take a permanent vacation from their colony, abandoning their boss and some of the younger worker bees. Considering how much our agriculture relies on bee pollination, particularly honey bees; it makes CCD not only an environmental concern but an economic one as well.
By having the public help out scientists in the growing field of “citizen science” – science projects involving the public’s help – specialists cover more ground (literally) while also rallying interest in conserving the charming pollinators. Similar to the Great Sunflower Project there are other U.S. cities starting their own citizen science bee projects. The Maine Bumblebee Atlas project in Appleton, Maine, with a budget of around $50,000 (that could get you over 6,000 jars of honey!), has been incredibly successful with recruiting volunteers. They have 106 volunteers signed up and with another 150 in the queue, showing that Appleton is buzzing with excitement to help out their bee friends. New York City has its own bee project; The Great Pollinator Project, which has tallied around 1,500 observations to identify more than 255 bee species including 16 exotic North American bee species.
With everyone swarming in to help the bees in these “citizen science” pollinator projects we can come to understand even more about our beloved pollinators and the role we play to conserve them.