The Great Sunflower Project


Screen Shot 2011 06 29 At 9.27.34 AmMany studies have been done on our agricultural bee populations and in recent times the commercial beekeepers have experienced colony collapse. What scientists had not studied on a large scale was how the wild bees were doing and what effect that has on pollination of garden plants, crops and wild plants. In 2008, we started this project as a way to gather information about our urban, suburban and rural bee populations. We wanted to enlist people all over the US and Canada to observe their bees and be citizen scientists. We asked them to plant sunflowers in their gardens so we could standardize study of bee activity and provide more resources for bees. Sunflowers are relatively easy to grow and are wildly attactive to bees. Since 2008, we have expanded the list of plants studied to include Bee balm, Cosmos, Rosemary, Tickseed, and Purple coneflower.

Findings. So far we've found that the on average our gardeners are likely to see a bee pollinate every 2.6 minutes. Surprisingly, over 20% of our gardens never saw a bee! Here is the 2010 map of the average number of bees seen in 15 minutes broken down into three categories (red=poor, yellow=moderate and green=good) indicating the quality of the pollinator service. We want to thank all of our citizen scientists for being our observers.

We would love to have you join us; let's help our most important pollinators together!