SAN FRANCISCO, July 9, 2012 A San Francisco State University biologist has released the initial results of her nationwide citizen science project to count bee populations and has found low numbers of bees in urban areas across America, adding weight to the theory that habitat loss is one of the primary reasons for sharp declines in the population of bees and other important pollinators.
Now the researcher plans to add to her data -- which is now the largest single body of information on bee activity in North America -- by further comparing how bee populations are faring in different types of habitats. On August 11 this year, SF State Biologist Gretchen LeBuhn and her team of researchers are urging people across the country to count bees in their yard and neighborhood gardens as part of a "Great Bee Count."
LeBuhn launched the campaign, called The Great Sunflower Project, in 2008 to answer important questions about the decline of pollinators and the ecosystems that rely upon them. She enlisted the help of nearly 100,000 volunteers to count bees they found in their garden or yard annually. Volunteers simply count the number of bees they see on a sunflower or other plant during two 15 minute observations per month, then report the data on LeBuhn's website.
Analyzing observations from 12,000 gardens, LeBuhn has found that urban areas have much fewer visits from bees than other habitats. Volunteers in urban gardens reported finding an average of 23.3 bees per hour, compared to 30.4 per hour in rural areas and 31.6 in forests and wildlands. Volunteers in desert areas reported an average of 31.9 bees per hour.
This year, LeBuhn has put out a renewed call for data from areas known for their healthy bee populations in order to determine the "tipping point" at which urban features can fragment bee habitats enough to cause population decline.
"We're really interested in doing deeper comparisons of rural and urban and suburban
|Contact: Philip Riley|
San Francisco State University