Researchers at San Francisco State University set up The Great Sunflower Project in 2008 to better understand the reason for and impact of declines in bee populations. The idea behind the project is to plant flowers, observe how many and how often bees visit those flowers, and then enter that information into a database on The Great Sunflower Project Web site. The project has since expanded so that citizen scientists can also plant Bee balm, Cosmos, Rosemary, Tickseed, and Purple coneflower for the purposes of this research.
Some bee populations have had severe declines, and this may be affecting food production. There have been few efforts to measure how much pollination is happening over any given region so it is unclear how these declines in bees influence gardens. As the researchers point out, many plants can’t set fruit until they have been visited by a bee. The Great Sunflower project uses observational bee data collected by citizen scientists to create a nationwide (and hopefully worldwide) online map of bee populations.
- The Birds and the Bees [Life Lines] (scienceblogs.com)
- Floral ‘roads’ to help bees (independent.co.uk)
- UCSF finds new bee viruses, offers baseline to study colony collapse (eurekalert.org)
- A World Without Bees (thistimethisspace.com)