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

Gun Nation

This is who America's gun owners are More

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs