View Full Version : Join the Hunt for Bees

03-11-2010, 10:45 AM
Check out the Great Sunflower Project at http://www.greatsunflower.org/.

Many 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, this project was started 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 "Lemon Queen" 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.

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! We want to thank all of our citizen scientists for being our observers.

If you care about the decline in pollinating bees, consider participating in the Great Sunflower Project, in which San Francisco State University biologists are gathering information about bee populations in urban, suburban and rural areas.

All you have to do is grow a 'Lemon Queen' sunflower and periodically record the number of bees it attracts during a 15-minute period, and submit your data online, including a description of your garden. Sign up at the Great Sunflower Project. You don't have to be a bee expert; no special knowledge is required.

I have to figure that Gotmeaders can assist in this effort to add to bee population information throughout the country. It's in our interest too as meadmakers. Bees: Responsible for Every Third Bite of Food.


03-14-2010, 03:48 PM
Nobody want to talk about the bees? That's where honey comes from folks. Growing some Lemon Queen sunflowers is fun and easy and they are beautiful flowers. Kids love them and bees do too. Plus the research project about bee population distribution seems like a good thing to keep track of. Anybody interested? Grow some bee loving flowers for the kids.


03-14-2010, 03:51 PM
I might plant some, I was planning on trying to start a garden this year.

03-15-2010, 12:44 AM
Thanks for posting about this study AtoE,

Unfortunately, I just moved and am now living in an apartment with no gardening potential (at least no sunflowers). The experiment sounds pretty clever though. I am definitely aware of the importance of the honeybees and the problems they are facing of late. Good on you for passing on the word about this citizen powered experiment.

I am hoping to be getting some land soon and tend some hives. As soon as get some land I am going to plant a good swath of nectar-bearing plants especially for the bees.

I am glad that you mention rosemary, that is a great one. In the parts of the U.S. that don't get too cold, I have seen bees feeding from rosemary flowers in the middle of winter! A much needed source of food.

03-15-2010, 02:29 PM
Thanks for posting about this study AtoE,

Not I! It was buzzerj!

03-16-2010, 09:14 PM
Yep it was me. I am growing rosemary now but I plan on planting some Lemon Queen Sunflowers and try this out. Monarda (Bee Balm) is another attractive perennial that bees love. I think that Gotmeaders should give a thought to plant some bee loving plants and help nurture our local bee populations. Lord knows, they are nurturing us. Be kind to bees, plant a flower.


03-16-2010, 10:55 PM
Pollinater's gardens ;D

03-18-2010, 09:40 PM
I did the bee count two years ago but couldn't get my sunflowers to grow, talk about beeing embarressed.

03-18-2010, 10:04 PM
Thanks! I will definitely add sunflowers to my garden, and take notes!
And I was just offered some monarda, which I hope to plant this year as well.

I was just at a workshop about remineralization of soil and the topic of the bees came up. Here is a section of my notes.....

"Consider something else….the honey bee. There is much concern these days about the disappearance of the honey bee. OK back to Brix for a moment. The honey bee does not harvest from plants with a Brix below 7, because it takes more energy to make the honey than the honey that is produced from it. So the bees look for more nutrient, energy rich nectars, the rest are just not worth the energy expenditure. As the nutrients in the soils decrease, the plants are less able to metabolize and produce all the necessary compounds needed for their and our vitality and health. While this may be good for some insects, it is starving the bees. As the complexity and functionality of the plants decreases, there are fewer and fewer places for the bees to harvest.
What to do? Well first, I am going to have the soil around my house tested to see what the nutrient levels are. There is a company, Logan Labs, which does a more thorough soil test that Dan spoke about. If you are interested, you can download the form at http://www.sierrapacificturf.com/files/SOIL%20TEST.pdf

there is also a lot of information at realfoodcampaign(dot)org

Medsen Fey
03-19-2010, 09:09 AM
I may give this a try with the sunflowers. My key lime tree has been blooming for the last 3 weeks and it has been covered with bees - the most I have ever seen on the tree in 4 years.

03-25-2010, 04:48 PM
Question: Is it cheating if you put a hive right next to the sunflowers? ;D

My wife just got done planting a ton of sunflowers (not sure what type though), and the 4lb package of bees should show up in the next couple weeks...


03-26-2010, 09:26 AM
I was also wondering if having a VERY active hive in my backyard will throw a hiccup in the data points in about a 2 mile radius of my house.

04-03-2010, 12:20 PM
Good questions. I would think that having a hive in the same yard as the flowers will throw off the expected counts and skew the measured data. You may inquire more information at sfbee@sfsu.edu.

Relative to the variety of sunflowers to use, the website answers that question.

Can I grow any sunflower and participate?

Nope. Each sunflower has it's own characteristics. There are actually quite a few sunflowers out there that don't even produce pollen (the main reason bees visit). To make sure that we are always comparing the same things, please use the variety that we have chosen, the annual Lemon Queen sunflower. We'll send you seeds or you can buy them at Renee's Garden or other places that have Lemon Queen!

Save a bee, plant a flower!