I’ve mentioned Jane and Pat before. They are at times referred to as our butterfly ladies for all their efforts in saving and tracking the beautiful monarchs and all the butterfly gardens they have certified. They have gently pushed our members to plant native species, prodded us to compost, and encouraged us to recycle those used coffee grounds into our soil. They walk the talk, leading by their examples in how they live and how they garden – and they are always a source of knowledge and inspiration for me.
I had just finished reading our club’s monthly newsletter. Inside its pages was a message from Jane and Pat telling us about a program initiated at the University of Illinois engaging citizen scientists (that would be you and me) in the gathering of information about honeybees and bumblebees. (For this posting, I will refer to both as bees)
As many of you are aware, the bee population is in rather precarious state right now. Hives are suddenly being abandoned and bee populations have been diminishing at increasingly alarming numbers, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, where all of the worker bees suddenly disappear. Gone. gone.
While this may seem like a problem only beekeepers face, it is, in reality, a problem for all of us. Hives being threatened threatens our food supply. Without these colonies of pollinators, mainly the workers bees, our vegetable crops and fruit trees are at grave risk of being destroyed.
Scientists have been attune to this and are actively seeking answers, but, they can’t do it alone. That’s where we come in; citizen scientists with the simple task of monitoring bees. All it involves is a camera, the internet, and a little initiative to become a BeeSpotter.
If you’ve been visiting the Cutoff for even a few posts, you know that I tote my camera around most places I go, especially if I’m out in nature. The day that I captured this lone bee in the pictures, I was merely taking one of my daily walks around the garden.
There I was, filled with glee as I spotted the first of the tree peonies opening, and there, in the very first blossom, was a very busy bee who was actively collecting pollen. He was so busy that didn’t pay me any mind, affording me the opportunity to get quite a few pictures, which I promptly downloaded and buzzed with delight when I saw I had quite a few good, clear shots.
The BeeSpotter link noted in the newsletter was quickly opened, a few clicks of the keyboard and I was logged in. Within five minutes I became a BeeSpotter by simply providing a few pictures, some basic information about where I saw the bee, time of day, date, and a click to send it. A few days later, I received an email from an expert BeeSpotter, identifying my bee, which is a Bombus impatiens (common eastern bumble bee).
BeeSpotting data is currently being collected only in Illinois. If you are an Illinois resident, or passing through Illinois, I encourage you to visit the website and consider sending in a few photos of the bees you see. If you are not an Illinois resident, I encourage you to visit the site, see what it is all about, and be aware of the bees in your area. Similar programs may soon be in your area. To all of you, I encourage you to look at other ways you can be a citizen scientist, like keeping a gardening or birding journal, keeping a photo journal of what you are seeing, or writing down simple observations of what is going on in nature around you.
Oh, if I’m not posting, I’m likely out Bee-ing a BeeSpotter!