California biologist seeks volunteer bee-counters
A California biologist who is conducting a kind of bee-census across the U.S. and Canada called the Great Sunflower Project is looking for volunteer field workers.
Gretchen LeBuhn, an associate professor at San Francisco State University with a fascination for bees, is studying bee colony collapse and an apparent decline in honey bee populations across North America, and for a project that big, she says, she needs help.
LeBuhn’s volunteers are required only to plant a sunflower in their yard and observe the nature and behavior of the bees the pollen-rich plants attract. Those signing up get a free packet of sunflower seeds along with instructions for proper bee monitoring.
She told the Orange County Register newspaper in an interview that she already has some 60,000 helpers but needs more.
“Sunflowers are a nice, big canvas,” LeBuhn told the Register. “You can look at bees that come and stay there a little while. In watching them, you really learn about whats out there.”
LeBuhn, who has also been profiled in the San Franciso Examiner and Sunset magazine, posts regular updates on the project on her Web site (“The Buzz: Pollinator Week!”) and will ultimately collect all the data for her study.
But in the meantime, she seems to be quite, um, happy just watching the little black and gold buzzers.
“I sort of think bees are magical,” LeBuhn told the Register. “I like sitting out here with my cup of coffee for 20 minutes, watching bees.”