News / Science & Technology

Great Bee Count Tracks Dwindling Populations

Gardeners Count Bees across North Americai
|| 0:00:00
X
Rosanne Skirble
August 09, 2012
About 100,000 volunteers are expected to join forces across North America on August 11th for the Great Bee Count. These citizen scientists will be taking an inventory of wild bee populations to determine if they are experiencing the same worrisome declines that have been reported among domestic bee colonies. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
TEXT SIZE - +
Rosanne Skirble
An estimated 100,000 volunteers across the continent will join forces this month for the Great Bee Count, which is designed to help scientists better gauge the trends in the wild bee population.
 
About 30 to 40 percent of America’s domestic honey bees - populations managed to produce honey and pollinate many agricultural crops - fall victim each year to farm chemical pollution, habitat loss and diseases. That same lethal combination may also be threatening the survival of as many as 4,000 species of native wild North American bees - important pollinators as well.  

Yvonne Fredlake will be one of those volunteers. Her bee-friendly garden is at its peak; the sunflowers and Black-eyed Susans are in full bloom.  

“They really love those," Fredlake says. "I make sure that I plant plenty of them, for two reasons, one for them and so that they will come in and visit my vegetable patch and help me out a little bit.”

  • Cemolobus ipomoeae  is a morning glory specialist with a tongue so long that, even when folded, it reaches to its abdomen.
  • Dieunomia xerophila often nests in huge groups in sandy soil.
  • Megachile frugalis is an uncommon bee that gathers pollen and carries it under its abdomen rather than on its legs like many other species.
  • Coelioxys coturnix is a nest parasite of other introduced bees in the inner city, laying its eggs in their nests and their young subsequently killing the host's young and eating the provisions of the nest.
  • Anthidiellum notatum is a tiny e Midsummer bee fond plants in sandy, open areas.
  • Habropoda laboriosa is known as the southeasterly blueberry bee this early spring bee looks a lot like a bumblebee but feeds almost exclusively on blueberry and related plant pollen.
  • Agapostemon splendens is attracted to the salt in people’s sweat and can be found in sandy soils and along the coastal dunes of eastern North America.
  • Megachile frugalis is an uncommon bee that gathers pollen and carries it under its abdomen rather than on its legs like many other species.
  • Dianthidium simile nests in the base of clumps of grass in nest cells made of sand mixed with pine resin.
  • Osmia distincta is a spring bee one often found gathering pollen from wild scrubby flowering plants.
  • Perdita latior among the smallest species in North America measures 2 mm in length.
  • Anthophora bomboides is a bumblebee look-alike, but from a completely different family than bumblebees and not forming colonies but nesting in exposed banks of soil.
  • Ceratina strenua is smaller than the size of a grain of rice and nests in the cut tips of plant stems; burrowing into the soft pith.

Clipboard in hand, Fredlake makes notes about bee activity on this mid-summer day in her Gainesville, Virginia, garden.   

“If I plant sun flowers in succession, which is what I try to do, I can usually get a good count every couple of weeks, if I am vigilant, on top of it, and don’t forget to.”

Fredlake regularly counts bees as part of the Great Sunflower Project, the group running the Great Bee Count, a special campaign to sample bee activity across North America on a single day. She will be among thousands of volunteers who will upload data to the project’s website.

Great Bee Count
Great Bee Counti
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X


“Every day is a good day because any count you get is a good count," Fredlake says. "And it is important to mark down anything, even if you don’t get any visitors. That’s significant too.”

While the collapse in domestic honeybee colonies is well documented, citizen scientists like Fredlake are central in understanding what’s happening to native bee species.

“I just get excited about how simple is was, that I could sit and watch what I was doing for my entertainment and then provide information for scientists so that they can catalog bees and keep track on what is going on in the United States,” she says.

San Francisco State University biologist Gretchen LeBuhn directs the Great Sun Flower project.

"This effort was started to try to identify what was happening with our bee communities and to identify the areas where we might have some concerns and could do some conservation,” LeBuhn says.

They’ve already learned quite a bit.  The data shows bees in decline in cities where habitat is disrupted by buildings and highways, compared with those living in deserts, forests and woodlands.  It also indicates that urban bee populations are healthier in larger community gardens with more flowers.

"I think [that] is a sign that the diversity of plants and the addition of a whole series of plants across the seasons really does help bees in those areas,"  LeBuhn says. "And our results suggest that in urban areas we need to actually try to increase the number of plants and areas for nesting for some of our bees.”

LeBuhn has issued a renewed call for people to sample their backyards in the Great Bee Count on August 11.  She says the event will give a snapshot of a single day, and also help fill in important local data missing from the national map.

“We have a good spread, but we don’t have the fine-scale data that would let us start to tie pollinator service to some of the lawn practices, the regional practices, the natural areas management practices, so anything we can do to learn more about how to help bees.”

And for volunteers like Yvonne Fredlake, the count will be a way to return the many favors that bees give the world, naturally, every day.  

“I make a difference for the bees that live in my area and that to me is important because this is my home too and they are part of my ecosystem," she says. "They are helping me with my vegetables and they are also helping hundreds of other families around me that have gardens, too.”

While the Great Bee Count will last just one day, Fredlake expects to keep an eye on them all summer.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid