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

Report: $60 Billion Leaves Africa Illegally Each Year

Report by a joint UN and African Union panel says African countries need to take concrete measures to stop billions of dollars from illegally being moved out of continent each year More

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Some analysts say Russian Tu-95 bombers were flying near British airspace to warn Britain about an inquest into a murdered Russian spy More

Mugabe Defends Image Amid Controversy at Close of AU Summit

He rejects concerns about how the West might perceive his leadership, saying he's focused on African development 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.
Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relationsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
January 31, 2015 10:50 PM
Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Spy Murder Probe Likely to Further Strain British-Russian Relations

Relations between Russia and the West are set to become even more strained amid an inquiry in London into the murder of a former Russian spy. Lawyers at the inquiry accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of directing a "mafia state." Meanwhile, Royal Air Force fighters intercepted Russian bombers close to British airspace this week, prompting authorities to summon Moscow’s ambassador. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Neighborhood Divided Over Conflict

People in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk districts find themselves squarely in the path of advancing Russian-backed rebels, who want to take back the territory they held at the beginning of the conflict last year. Many local residents are afraid, but others would welcome the change, even when a rebel shell lands in their neighborhood. From the Luhansk district, 15 kilometers from where the Ukrainian government marks the front line, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid