The great bee count

Jun 10, 2011

For a number of years, honey bee populations have been shrinking. It's called colony collapse disorder. To help understand this bee die-off, citizen scientists are being asked to keep an eye on their gardens this summer as part of The Great Sunflower Project.

The California-based project is helping scientists map pollinators around the country, including in Washington state. Steve Sheppard, a bee researcher at Washington State University, says there are so many insects and so few entomologists that for many parts of the country there's not even baseline information about what is there.

The other useful function of The Great Sunflower Project is that it makes people aware of these insects that most people don't pay much attention to.

As part of the project, participants plant sunflowers, count bees, and submit their data online. Researchers use the data to map pollinators to see where bees are doing well and where they need help. Scientists stress that if you want a productive garden, you need to have a healthy, diverse bee community in your backyard.