Be A Bee Watcher
"It was cool to see how bees used flowers in characteristic ways."
"I enjoyed contributing to science."
"I was happy that I became less afraid of bees."
Members of the green sweat bee genera Agapostemonlike this photographed in New York Cityrange throughout the western hemisphere, including this individual photographed in New York City.
Credit: John Ascher
These are just a few of the comments from bee watchers who enjoyed their stints last year as urban citizen scientists. Now, you too can join them. The Great Pollinator Project is looking for new recruits to track bees by observing flowers throughout New York City.
The Great Pollinator Project is a joint effort between the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation (CBC) at the American Museum of Natural History and the Greenbelt Native Plant Center of New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation.
"A a bee watcher, you get to know your neighbors," says Liz Johnson, Manager of the Metropolitan Biodiversity Program at the CBC. "There's more than 225 species of bees living in the metropolitan area, and with this fun project you can sit quietly and see some of these intriguing insects visit flowers."
Researchers are interested in how bees are distributed throughout the urban landscape, so bee watchers count different types of bees (species of carpenter and honey, and groups of bumble and green metallic species) as they come to specific flowers in gardens, on terraces, or in plots within city parks throughout the five boroughs. Researchers also want to raise public awareness about native bees in hope of improving park management practices to benefit them. Bees need adequate nest sites, pollen, and nectar to live successfully, and much of this is possible in New York City.
Urban, solitary bee Nomada articulata parasitizes the nests of Agapostemon in the metropolitan area.
Credit: John Ascher
Bee watchers observe a variety of plants distributed by the Great Pollinator Projectan annual sunflower as well as a number of native plants like bee balm and smooth aster. This year, the list of plants is expanding to provide more opportunities for folks to find plants in bloom throughout the city. The bees that came to these flowers last year were varied: about 27% were honey bees and 36% were bumble bees. It is important to note that, despite popular misconception, the honey bee is only one of many important pollinators in New York City.
"The Great Pollinator Project has grown over the past two years, and this year we want to focus on better coverage of the citymore observations in Staten Island and Queens, for exampleand observations from more built-up sections of the city," says Johnson. "So far, over a third of citizen scientists are from Brooklyn, and half searched for bees in their own gardens. But a few hardy souls placed plants on their balconies or roof gardens." This year, flowers will be planted in public spaces at 18 locations throughout the city so that volunteers have additional options for making their contribution to science.
The Great Pollinator Project was awarded a "Green Apple" for Earth Day this year from the Natural Resources Defense Council. For those interested in joining the scientific effort to learn more about the metropolitan area's bees, check out the Great Pollinator Project. Even though most of the formal orientations have passed, you can join by signing up online at greatpollinatorproject.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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