News / USA

Going on a Bee Hunt That Helps the Planet

Amateur naturalists snap pictures to track environmental changes

Bee hunters across the US take pictures of pollinators and the plants they pollinate, and then upload them to an online database that keeps track of trends showing the effects of climate change, pollution or invasive species.
Bee hunters across the US take pictures of pollinators and the plants they pollinate, and then upload them to an online database that keeps track of trends showing the effects of climate change, pollution or invasive species.

Multimedia

Audio
Smitha Raghunathan

Volunteers equipped with nothing more than digital cameras are taking part in an unusual bee hunt.

It's part of an environmental study that has amateur photographers documenting the impact of climate change, pollution and other factors on the interplay between plants and the creatures that pollinate them.

Freeze frame

Bees pollinate $10 billion worth of fruits, nuts and a variety of row crops each year in the United States.

Yet recent declines in the population of these essential insects threaten the lucrative agricultural industry.

Sam Droege, a researcher at the US Geological Survey's Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, is examining possible causes for the bee decline. Working with an online environmental encyclopedia called, "Discover Life," Droege has helped organize the Bee Hunt study.

Bee hunters across the United States take pictures of pollinators and the plants they pollinate, and then upload them to the "Discover Life" website. The online database keeps track of trends in pollinator populations that show the effects of climate change, pollution or invasive species.

Researcher Sam Droege demonstrates Bee Hunting techniques, getting in close for a shot.
Researcher Sam Droege demonstrates Bee Hunting techniques, getting in close for a shot.

Tracking pollinator populations

Droege's lab is filled with boxes of dead bees at various stages of identification, but the part of his job he seems to really enjoy is being outside hunting for live bees.

After a short, bumpy car ride, Droege stops at a small grassy field filled with milkweed, Canada thistle and bees. He feels there is an urgent need for a large sampling of pollinator populations across the United States.

"There's no bureau census of bees," he says. "So we are trying to create that in any way possible. There's not a lot of funding, so having citizens collect that kind of information would be advantageous."

Information on the status of pollinators helps researchers understand exactly how factors, such as disease or pollution, impact the numbers of these important insects.

Bee hunters

Amateur naturalists begin their bee hunts by noting the time of day and location they are photographing.

Once they find some bees, or other pollinating insects such as wasps, butterflies and beetles, it's time to pull out the camera and get some good close-ups. The volunteers upload the photos to the "Discover Life" website, where free online tools and experts are available to help identify the insects and the plants they're pollinating.

So far, 50 bee hunters across the U.S. have contributed to the database. Stephanie Urquhart took pictures of pollinators in the state of Oklahoma. She became interested in the study when she first heard that bees were disappearing due to an occurrence called colony collapse disorder.

"My family, my father and my grandfather, they were beekeepers. And so when I heard that news, I knew what that meant. And it really scared me." Urquhart began researching colony collapse disorder and learned that, as far back as 1996, about 40 percent of the nation's wild pollinators had disappeared. "That includes bees, bats, butterflies, moths, the whole gamut."

In addition to her desire to help scientists understand what is causing this pollinator decline, Urquhart also uses Bee Hunt as part of her home-schooling routine with her two young daughters. For all three of them, she says, this is a way to have a positive impact on the world.

"With digital photography, and the internet, now people can get directly involved with this - with climate, with wildlife issues, conservation, whatever. And really contribute something meaningful, and learn about themselves and start to understand where they live and how they can interact with their environment."

Hope for the future

Fostering that community involvement in research is exactly why University of Georgia researcher John Pickering founded "Discover Life," and created Bee Hunt. With the study gaining momentum now that it has full funding, Pickering is excited to see what the data will tell us, and how we can use it.

"I don't look at doom and destruction in our future," he says. "I really feel that if we work together, network together, collect the data that we need as a society, we can really understand and better manage this planet."

Droege says combining data from multiple Bee Hunts can create an impressive database showing the status of pollinators today. It would also provide a valuable environmental baseline for understanding changes in the years to come.

"It's the foundation for all information to come. It'll be compared to, used over and over. We know that there were these kinds of bees and these kinds of critters on flowers at this time and this place. Twenty years later, 100 years later, you can go back and look at that again and you have the original data right there. You can look at it."

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More